By  on January 6, 2005

By Vicki M. Young

NEW YORK — U.S. retailers reported mixed same-store sales for the all-important December holiday season, with specialty and luxury chains leading the way.

American Eagle Outfitters soared 32.8 percent in stores open at least a year, Chico's posted an 18.6 percent gain and Abercrombie & Fitch had a 10 percent boost.

Neiman Marcus went up 10.8 percent, while discounters reported more modest increases. Target gained 5.1 percent and Wal-Mart Stores, the world's biggest retailer, rose 2.6 percent, near the top end of its forecast after a disappointing showing on Black Friday.

Among the retailers who took hits was Sears, which fell 3 percent. Gap was down 1 percent.

Federated Department Stores, which includes Macy's and Bloomingdale's, increased 2.3 percent, and Kohl's reported a 3.1 percent gain.

Retailers had struggled with ups and downs during the holidays. Wal-Mart cut prices and launched an ad blitz and as recently as last week projected a 2 percent same-store sales increase.

The National Retail Federation had forecast an overall 4.5 percent same-store sales boost for the season, compared with 5.1 percent in 2003.

The same-store results still don't necessarily reflect the entire shopping landscape. Gift cards represented a higher percentage of holiday spending in 2004, but those sales don't get posted until the cards are actually redeemed. In addition, sales in the online channel -- which aren't included in the December same-store sales reports -- jumped 25 percent to $23.2 billion, according to a survey by Goldman Sachs & Co., Harris Interactive and Nielsen/Net Ratings.
For a full report, see Friday's WWD.

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