Shoppers bought more at stores in October compared to a year earlier, a report… (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles…)
Shoppers hit the malls and handed retailers a healthy gain in October before Sandy pummeled the Northeast, a positive sign pointing to a decent holiday season head.
Major chains posted a 2.7% increase in retail sales in October compared with the same month a year earlier, on par with analysts' expectations, according to Thomson Reuters' tally of 18 retailers. Excluding drugstores, however, retail sales are up 4.7%, exceeding expectations of 4.3%.
Retailers are looking ahead to the effects that Sandy may have on consumers in the coming months, especially those in the hardest-hit states who will have to repair or rebuild their homes.
Many companies closed the books on October last weekend, so the full impact of the storm -- including shoppers stocking up on supplies and stores closings -- were not factored into the sale tallies.
Top performers were a broad mix of stores. Luxury chain Nordstrom reported a strong 9.8% jump. Discount retailer Costco Wholesale Corp. and off-price chain TJX Cos. both said sales rose 7%. Macy's Inc. posted a 4.1% rise.
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Other retailers posted weak results. Struggling teen clothier Wet Seal, which recently went through a board shakeup following more than a year of falling sales, reported its sales slipping 7.6%.
Even in the best years, October is a slow time for merchants as they gear up for the holidays, so the month is not necessarily a good predictor of future consumer spending, analysts said.
Results in the Thomson Reuters survey are based on sales at stores open at least a year, known as same-store sales and considered an important measure of a retailer's health because it excludes the effect of stores' openings and closings.
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