NEW YORK -- Apparel sales surged Thanksgiving weekend, but overall November was a disappointing month for many chains as warm weather hurt sales, major retailers said Thursday.
Outerwear and sportswear were hardest hit, they said. Specialty apparel chains, regional discounters and off-pricers reported the weakest results, while department stores generally managed modest gains. Ann Taylor Stores Corp. and The Talbots Inc. beat the trend. Ann Taylor's same-store sales jumped 18.4 percent and total sales leapt 40.7 percent to $58.5 million. Talbots, continuing its strong sales momentum this year, reported same-store sales up 9.1 percent, led by its petites division. Total sales grew 17 percent to $66.4 million. At The Limited Inc., same-store sales fell 4 percent, despite some improvement in the second half of the month. Total sales gained 4 percent to $657.4 million. Weakness in women's apparel continued to offset strength in other areas. Among Limited's women's chains, only Express beat management's plans, with same-store sales moving up in the mid-single digits and merchandise margins "up nicely," the company said.
The other divisions showed same-store sales declines -- The Limited Stores tumbled to the low 20s, Lerner New York was off in the high teens, Lane Bryant was off in the low-single digits and Henri Bendel was down in the low-single digits.
Victoria's Secret stores' same-store sales were up in the mid-single digits, Victoria's Secret's catalog sales climbed in the low 30s and Bath & Body Works sales jumped in the mid-30s.
Same-store sales at The Gap Inc. nudged ahead 1 percent, while total sales increased 14 percent to $332 million. Banana Republic's same-store sales rose in the mid-teens to offset declines at both Gap and GapKids.
J.C. Penney Co.'s same-store sales were up only 1.5 percent, trending well behind its year-to-date 6.6 percent gain. Total sales increased 2 percent to $2 million. Warm weather slowed sales of sportswear and outerwear, but junior sportswear, career apparel and handbags were hot. Dresses and pantsuits did "OK," a spokesman said. At the catalog division, women's sportswear was strong.
Sears Roebuck & Co. said its domestic same-store sales rose 4.9 percent and total sales increased 6 percent to $2.34 billion. "November finished with the best Thanksgiving weekend in the company's history, although unseasonably mild weather got the month off to a slow start," said Arthur C. Martinez, chairman and chief executive officer of The Merchandise Group. Sears said cosmetics, fine jewelry and men's apparel "drove the soft side" while hard lines, including computers and major appliances, had double-digit gains.
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