NEW YORK — October’s better-than-anticipated same-store sales brought some cheer to retailers — several lifted third-quarter earnings projections — but analysts warned that it was premature to peg them as a harbinger of a robust holiday selling season.
Specialty retailers, such as American Eagle Outfitters Inc., which posted a 31.7 percent jump in comps at U.S. stores, and Bebe Stores Inc. with a 30.6 percent rise, as well as luxury retailers such as The Neiman Marcus Group, with a 13.6 percent advance, and Saks Inc., with a 4.4 percent gain, showed that consumers continued to search for unique and differentiated products.
Among the 50 retailers tracked by WWD, 40 companies reported positive October comps, the highest number since March, and 10 retailers had negative results. Among sectors, specialty chains had the best average comp increase, 6.1 percent higher, while mass merchants posted a 3.7 percent increase and department stores were up 2.7 percent.
Mike Niemira, director of research at the International Council of Shopping Centers, said the aggregate 4.1 percent increase in October among the 75 retailers he follows, against a forecast of 3 percent, was the best comp boost since May’s 5.7 percent rise. Still, he cautioned about using the month’s comps to get a definitive read on the future.
“Though October’s results should not be taken as a bellwether of how holiday sales will fare, they are at least a reassuring sign that sales will remain strong as we move closer to the traditional start of the holiday season,” Niemira said in a statement on Thursday. The ICSC forecast November same-stores sales — defined as sales in stores open at least a year — would go up 3 to 4 percent compared with a 3.7 percent rise in November 2003.
Similar to the ICSC’s results, Goldman Sachs Retail Composite Index posted its biggest comp increase in October, 4 percent, since May’s 5.5 percent increase.
Demonstrating the strength of the teen shopper, American Eagle and Bebe each posted October comps above 30 percent. American Eagle expects to earn 75 cents to 77 cents a share in the third quarter, up from a previous guidance of 67 cents to 69 cents. The company also forecast fourth-quarter earnings of 92 cents, matching analysts’ projections.
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