U.S. retailers’ September same-store sales topped analysts’ estimates, led by discount and specialty- apparel chains that benefited from back-to-school shopping, while department stores trailed projections.
Sales at TJX Cos. (TJX:US) climbed 6 percent, beating the average estimate for a 4.4 percent gain from analysts surveyed by researcher Retail Metrics Inc. Target Corp. (TGT:US), the second-largest U.S. discounter, posted a 2.1 percent increase in same-store sales, topping the 2 percent projection.
Retailers benefited from back-to-school promotions that drove traffic early in September before tapering off in the middle of the month. Sales in the current environment may wane when customers don’t have an “event” to get them shopping, Jennifer Davis, an analyst with Lazard Capital Markets in New York, wrote in a note before the report.
“The winner of the group is TJX,” Ron Friedman, head of retail and consumer products at accounting firm Marcum LLP, said in an interview today. “They’re where everyone was last year, but they’re still there, and nobody else is there really. They had the right product, they hit the kids for back to school.”
Same-store sales for the more than 20 companies tracked by Retail Metrics rose 3.9 percent, excluding drugstores. That topped analysts’ average estimate of a 3.7 percent gain, the Swampscott, Massachusetts-based firm said today. Sales increased 5.9 percent in August. Specialty-apparel chains led the gains with a 5.6 percent increase, while discounters rose 4.3 percent and department-store sales increased 1.4 percent.
TJX, based in Framingham, Massachusetts, rose 0.6 percent to $45.50 at the close in New York. Minneapolis-based Target gained 0.9 percent to $63.65.
“It’s slow, steady, growth,” said Barbara Kahn, a marketing professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, said by phone from Philadelphia. “The retailers understand the market much better now, they plan inventories better now, they understand you have to do something interesting to bring people into the store.”
Macy’s Inc. (M:US), the second-largest U.S. department-store chain, reported a 2.5 percent increase, trailing analysts’ estimates for a 3.3 percent gain. The Cincinnati-based company’s shares rose 0.5 percent to $39.67.
“You’re going to continue to see this bifurcation in performance between those companies that have it right and those companies that are struggling,” Michael Appel, a director with consulting firm AlixPartners, said by phone from New York. “The winners are those that are going to be able to combine value with fashion and have the goods that consumers want on their shelves, appropriately priced.”
Most chains count locations open at least a year to tabulate same-store sales. The revenue is a key indicator of a retailer’s growth because new and closed sites are excluded.
U.S. students typically start school in August or at the beginning of September after two to three months of summer vacation. Most back-to-school sales take place in August and September.
“Sales slow when the customer does not have a ‘need’ to go to the mall,” Lazard’s Davis wrote. “We expect sales to pick up again when the weather cools.”
Consumers may limit shopping trips as they stay in tune with daily political commentary before the Nov. 6 election, Charles Grom, an analyst at Deutsche Bank AG in New York, wrote in a note before the report.
In the past four presidential elections, same-store sales in the third quarter of an election year were lower than the first half average, on a one- and two-year stacked basis, Grom wrote in a Sept. 21 report. The effect was biggest for department stores, he wrote.
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