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U.S. Retailers' Holiday Spirit Intact After Slow September

October 07, 1994|From Associated Press

Lingering warm weather in September weakened sales for many of the nation's biggest store owners reporting results Thursday.

But industry analysts said consumer demand remains strong and the outlook for the Christmas season good.

Retailers and analysts noted that business recovered this week as temperatures fell and consumers began shopping for warmer clothes. "As soon as it got cold in October, sales picked up," said Karen Sack, an analyst with Standard & Poor's Corp. "We'll see a lot of September sales were deferred until October."

Since the recession, consumers have bought clothing or household goods only when needed. The days of stocking up on winter clothes months before the weather turns cold are gone.

Analysts said women's apparel sales, which have suffered for more than a year, continued to improvein September. But the increase wasn't dramatic.

Department store companies, which have been taking business away from mall-based specialty stores and discount stores, continued to gain market share last month, Sack said.

Wal-Mart Inc., the nation's largest retailer, said sales from stores open at least a year rose 6.5% from last September, and total sales were up 22%. The figures were off from Wal-Mart's strong pace earlier this year.

Sales from stores open at least a year, known as same-store sales, are considered the most accurate measure of a retailer's strength. They exclude the results of newer stores, where sales tend to be unusually high. Same-store sales also exclude results from stores closed over the past year.

In Los Angeles, Broadway Stores Inc. said same-store sales increased 4.4% in September. Kmart Corp. said same-store sales rose 2.8%, while overall business was up 7.9%.

Sears, Roebuck & Co. said same-store sales advanced 4.8% and overall sales rose 5.4%.

Dayton Hudson Corp. said same-store sales rose 3.3% and overall business was up 9.6%. The company's Target discount store division was again its strongest performer, while sales at its Mervyn's clothing chain were below expectations.

JC Penney Co. said same-store sales at its flagship stores rose 9.3% and that total sales, including its drugstore and catalogue operations, rose 8.6%.

May Department Stores Co. reported a 1.7% same-store sales gain and a 5% overall increase.

* A SNAG IN JUNIOR WEAR

Fall seasonal sales off at O.C.'s Clothestime and Wet Seal. D6

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