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Retail Stocks Plummet — Again

NEW YORK — The equity market began the last day of the third quarter on a sour note, but retail issues stayed in the dumps on lowered sales expectations and worries about the West Coast dock lockout, as other sectors recovered.<br><br>Standard &...

NEW YORK — The equity market began the last day of the third quarter on a sour note, but retail issues stayed in the dumps on lowered sales expectations and worries about the West Coast dock lockout, as other sectors recovered.

Standard & Poor’s retail index slumped 4.2 percent, or 11.51 points, to 264.54. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, after being down 3.1 percent earlier, ended the day off 1.4 percent, or 109.52 points, at 7,591.93. The S&P 500, which was down as much as 3.3 percent, closed at 815.29, only 1.5 percent, or 12.08 points below Friday’s close.

While singling out apparel as a “weak” category, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. pulled down its expectations for September comparable-store sales to a 3 to 4 percent increase. Previously, the firm was looking for a 4 to 6 percent uptick.

“Our sales forecast for September was based on the assumptions about the amount of business lost from the post-9/11 period last year and proved too optimistic,” said a spokeswoman on a recorded call.

Federated Department Stores Inc. said its sales trends last week were “disappointing” and led the retailer to anticipate comps for the month to be flat to up 2 percent. Federated had been looking for a 3 to 5 percent increase.

J.C. Penney Co., which wrapped up the fifth and final week of its fiscal month, also pulled down its guidance for the month. Same-store sales in its department stores are now expected be down by low-single digits, contrary to the previous flat-to-up-slightly projection.

Sears, Roebuck & Co. said the week’s turnover was in line with its expectations for a high-single digit comp-store decline for the month.

After the market closed, Aeropostale Inc. reduced its earnings expectations for the back half of the year, citing reduced traffic. The specialty retailer is now looking for third-quarter earnings of 31 to 33 cents a diluted share, while Wall Street was expecting 50 cents. For the fourth quarter, the firm sees EPS of 30 to 34 cents, where analysts had the firm pegged for 52 cents.

Also, S&P debt analyst Susan Ding put Kellwood Co. on credit watch with negative implications. “Kellwood’s financial profile has deteriorated during the past several years due to debt-financed acquisitions, a very difficult retail environment and continued softness in the U.S. economy,” she said. Shares of the firm slid 1.5 percent to $22.86.

This story first appeared in the October 1, 2002 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Department stores getting bitten by falling share prices included J.C. Penney, down 9.6 percent to $15.92; Neiman Marcus, 9 percent to $26.25; Nordstrom, 7.3 percent to $17.94; Dillard’s, 5.9 percent to $20.18; Federated, 5.6 percent to $29.44; Kohl’s, 5.1 percent to $60.81; Saks, 4.2 percent to $10.53 and Sears, Roebuck, 4 percent to $39.

Shares of Target dropped 7.5 percent to $29.52 while Wal-Mart, a Dow component stock, was off 3.9 percent to $49.24.

Specialty retailers with waning stock prices included: Abercrombie, down 7.2 percent to $19.67; Chico’s, 7.1 percent to $15.93; Pacific Sunwear, 7 percent to $20.36; Talbots, 6.3 percent to $28; Bebe, 6.2 percent to $11.81; Gap, 6.1 percent to $10.85; Hot Topic, 6.1 percent, to $18.03; Ann Taylor, 5.5 percent to $23.03; Limited Brands, 5.4 percent to $14.34; American Eagle, 5 percent to $12.06; Aeropostale, 4.9 percent to $15.40 and Too, 4.9 percent to $23.28.