NEW YORK -- After a sales streak Thanksgiving weekend, the retail industry last week lapsed into a more familiar pattern of mediocre gains that met most plans but left little else to cheer about.
Generally, retailers are projecting gains of about 6 percent for the season overall. Last week, the gains were about half that at department stores and mass merchants and even less at specialty stores.
The International Council of Shopping Centers said specialty retail sales rose just 0.9 percent last week, based on a survey of over 5,000 stores in 80 malls. For The weekend after Thanksgiving, specialty store sales rose 4.5 percent.
Among the results:
Cooler weather aided California stores, but warm weather hurt the Midwest and Northeast.
Novelty and moderate goods, including cashmere sweaters and gloves, and typical gifts, such as jewelry and fragrances, sold best.
"Business was softer last week," noted John Cody, J.C. Penney Co.'s executive vice president and director of stores. "Part of that is because seasonal lines like outerwear and heavier apparel have really lagged in the Northeast and Northwest. If you take the outerwear and heavier sweaters out of the equation, it looks a lot more favorable." Penney's sales last week were on plan, with a gain of about 4 percent -- slightly weaker than Thanksgiving week. At Bloomingdale's, "It was an OK week, considering the warm weather," said Michael Gould, chairman and ceo. "We were on plan." He characterized the past eight days as "small" ones compared to the week before Christmas.
Jim Nordstrom, co-chairman of Nordstrom Inc., also said business was "OK" with volume "as strong" as last year, but he added that the season last year was "a disaster." "You can fiddle all month, but it's always those three days before Christmas that tell you how it is," Nordstrom said. "Until the 26th, you don't know."
At Gottschalks, Fresno, Calif., cold weather boosted fleece jogging suits and tops, coats and wool.
Joe Levy, chairman, said cold weather apparel and accessories significantly contributed to an 8 percent gain. Women's wear, men's wear and home were strong; juniors and Liz Claiborne were weak.
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