By  on December 1, 2011

A solid post-Thanksgiving weekend ended November with an exclamation point as U.S. retailers relied on a wide array of promotions to record better-than-anticipated November sales. For most, the combination of longer hours and deep discounts brought customers into the stores throughout the Thanksgiving weekend and helped lift results that had been hampered earlier in the month by unseasonably warm weather and a public inclined to procrastinate in advance of the official launch of the holiday season. Earlier in November, sales had been hampered by unseasonal weather, which had taken a heavy toll on purchases of outerwear and other cold-weather merchandise. Macy's Inc. surpassed expectations with a 4.8 percent increase in comparable-store sales. "A strong Black Friday punctuated our very positive sales performance through November at both Macy's and Bloomingdale's," said Terry Lundgren, chairman, president and chief executive officer of the company. "This was the first year that Macy's stores opened at 12 midnight on Black Friday, which particularly attracted millennial customers who gravitate to the fashion, newness and value in our merchandise assortments."RELATED STORY: November Comp Crux >>RELATED STORY: Doubts Linger Despite November Gains >>

Although the majority of retailers met or passed expected levels, there were several noteworthy "misses" among major stores, none more glaring than Kohl's Corp.'s 6.2 percent decline for the month, which came against expectations of a 2 percent increase. Midtier rival J.C. Penney Co. Inc. was off 2 percent for the month, slightly more than the 1.6 percent drop expected, and asserted that its decision "to respect Thanksgiving Day for families and open at 4 a.m. on Friday, as it had in prior years, adversely impacted Black Friday sales," which it said then remained soft throughout the weekend. Dillards Inc. was up 3 percent, matching estimates, while Stage Stores Inc.'s 2.3 percent exceeded estimates of a flat performance. Thomson Reuters said that comps rose 3.1 percent for the month, matching its final estimate, although Zumiez Inc. and Walgreen Co. have yet to report November results. Gap Inc.'s 3 percent comp decline was better than the 4.3 percent dropoff anticipated, with comps flat at Banana Republic but down 7 percent and 2 percent at the Old Navy and Gap nameplates in the U.S. "This is just the start of the holiday selling season, and we expect December to remain fiercely competitive and highly promotional," said Glenn Murphy, chairman and ceo of Gap. "Our brands stand ready to compete at every opportunity to win customers over — in stores and online." Saks Inc. reported one of the stronger comps for the month — a 9.3 percent increase — and cited strength in women's and men's contemporary apparel, handbags, fine jewelry, men's shoes, cosmetics and fragrances. Nordstrom Inc.'s 5.6 percent increase beat estimates of 5 percent growth. However, many stores catering to less affluent customers, like Kohl's and Penney's, struggled. Target Corp.'s 1.8 percent increase for the month fell below analysts' projections. "Our view of December remains the same," said Gregg Steinhafel, chairman, president and ceo. "We expect a competitive and promotional environment as consumers continue to focus on value. At Target, we'll provide our guests with great deal and low everyday prices on a unique assortment of items for gift-givinig and holiday entertaining." "November same-store sales reflect the continuing difficult environment for middle and lower income customers as well as a difficult comparison to the prior year," said John Cato, chairman, president and ceo of Cato Corp., which had a 5 percent decline in same-store sales for the month. Limited Brands Inc. continued to outperform its specialty store competition, with a corporate increase of 7 percent and an 11 percent bump at Victoria's Secret. The Buckle Inc. was up 6.9 percent, versus a 4 percent estimate. The Wet Seal Inc.'s 3.1 percent drop, prompted by weakness at Arden B, was milder than expected. Among off-pricers, The TJX Cos. Inc. matched expectations with a 4 percent increase and Ross Stores Inc. exceeded forecasts with a 5 percent gain. Ross continues to expect its December comps to rise between 3 percent and 4 percent, with January penciled in for a 1 percent to 2 percent increase.

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