By  on October 6, 2011

GAP NAP: Walloped by a 13 percent drop in its international operations, Gap Inc. saw comparable-store sales for September decline 4 percent, the same pullback experienced by the Gap North America unit. That wasn’t only the steepest drop registered by any of the major retailers reporting monthly results on Thursday, but it took a huge bite out of the entire specialty apparel sector’s results. Thomson Reuters put the increase for the category at 2.9 percent, a figure that nearly doubled — rising to 5.6 percent — when the San Francisco-based giant’s results were excluded. YOUTH WAS SERVED: The biggest players in teen retailing all have bowed out of monthly comp reporting, but the second tier of the category put up strong numbers last month. The Buckle Inc. and Zumiez Inc. not only posted the period’s third- and fourth-best numbers, with respective increases of 10.3 percent and 10.1 percent, but also provided September’s two largest upside “surprises,” with Zumiez 6.9 points and Buckle 6.6 points better than anticipated. Only Victoria’s Secret parent Limited Brands Inc. (up 11 percent) and Costco Wholesale Corp. (up 12 percent, including fuel) performed better overall. PRICE FATIGUE: Much was made of the potentially detrimental effect of rising prices for cotton and other commodities going into the fall season, but the effect was a bit muted as September results cascaded. However, Tony Buccina, vice chairman and president of merchandising at The Bon-Ton Stores Inc., did note “lower sell-throughs on selected ladies’ and men’s apparel where cost increases had resulted in higher retail prices” as his company reported a 3.6 percent decline in its comps for the month.

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