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Retail Stocks Losing Their Holiday Cheer

Wall Street: Analysts expect slowing economy to put a crimp in fourth- quarter earnings.

November 30, 2000|From Times Wire Services

Investors got fresh evidence Wednesday that the slowing U.S. economy could mean a less-than-merry holiday season for some retailers.

Shares of apparel retailer Limited (ticker symbol: LTD) and lingerie retailer Intimate Brands (IBI) tumbled after analysts expressed concern over the companies' ability to post strong sales and meet earnings estimates for the all-important fourth quarter. And Gap (GPS) swooned briefly in after-hours trading after issuing its own warning.

Even youth-oriented apparel retailer American Eagle Outfitters (AEOS), which Wednesday said November sales at stores open at least a year rose 13.4%, warned that it is still "conservative" about its outlook for the fourth quarter.

Shares of Intimate Brands, which is 84% owned by Limited and operates Victoria's Secret and Bath & Body Works stores, fell after it said sales at stores open at least a year fell 3%.

Even though Intimate Brands said it was comfortable with analysts' consensus earnings estimate for the fourth quarter of 66 cents a share, the company's shares still ended down 13%, or $2.38, to close at $15.31 on the New York Stock Exchange.

Intimate Brands' popular Victoria's Secret brand saw a 2% drop in same-store sales this month versus an 11% rise in November 1999. Bath & Body Works saw its sales fall 5% this year versus a 7% gain last year.

Limited's stock dropped as much as 15% before ending the day down almost 8% at $20.38, off $1.75.

Columbus, Ohio-based Limited, which operates Limited, Express, Lane Bryant and New York & Co. stores, said its November same-store sales rose 3%. It also said it was comfortable with Wall Street's consensus earnings estimate for fiscal 2000.

Shares of Gap, meanwhile, fell as low as $21 in late trading after ending the regular market session down 19 cents at $25.81. The San Francisco-based specialty retailer said November same-store sales fell 1% and it is "cautious" about its fourth-quarter outlook.

Analyst Janet Kloppenburg of Robertson Stephens said Gap, the No. 1 U.S. clothing chain, could be hurt because of price cuts at its Banana Republic and Old Navy stores. Add in the news that the U.S. economy is growing at its slowest pace in four years, Kloppenburg said, and "Christmas is looking like it's certainly going to come late."

American Eagle Outfitters said it is comfortable with Wall Street analysts' consensus earnings estimates of 89 cents a share for the fourth quarter. The company's shares rose 17 cents to close at $40.73.


Wearing Thin

Intimate Brands' stock, which seesawed in recent

years, has been headed down lately.


Monthly closes and latest, Intimate Brands on NYSE

Wednesday: $15.31, down $2.38

Source: Bloomberg News

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