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Slow Sales Sink Retail Shares

NEW YORK — Retail stocks headed south with the urgency ofshivering snowbirds Monday after several big stores offered glum assessments of sales last week.<br><br>Leading the migration, Dow component Wal-Mart Stores stuck with its forecast that...

NEW YORK — Retail stocks headed south with the urgency ofshivering snowbirds Monday after several big stores offered glum assessments of sales last week.

This story first appeared in the November 19, 2002 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Leading the migration, Dow component Wal-Mart Stores stuck with its forecast that November comparable-store sales will fall into a range of up 2 to 4 percent, but the Bentonville, Ark.–based retail giant acknowledged that month-end corporate results will be at the low end of that span. It didn’t provide separate projections for its discount store and Sam’s Club divisions.

Calling results for the week ended last Friday “disappointing,” Federated Department Stores said it expects comps for November to be down between 2.5 and 4.5 percent, partially because of the truncated nature of the month.

Thanksgiving is the unofficial start of the holiday season and its late timing this year — Nov. 28 — means that retailers will have fewer post-Thanksgiving shopping days during the current retail month.

Like other retail firms, Cincinnati-based Federated suggested that a more accurate view of the holiday season would be available by combining comp results for the months of November and December. It continues to expect that comps for the two months will finish flat to down 2.5 percent.

While the abbreviated November selling period helped to explain why the month’s results may fall short of recent comp performances, it didn’t ease fears of a disappointing overall holiday season, which applied downward pressure on the equity markets.

Wal-Mart shares fell $1.81, or 3.3 percent, to close at $53.68 Monday, and Federated’s were down $1.15, or 3.5 percent, to close at $31.71. While the Standard & Poor’s 500 was off 9.47, or 1 percent, to 900.36 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average sank 92.52, or 1.1 percent, to end Monday’s session at 8,486.57, the S&P Retail Index fell back further, losing 6.54 points for the day, or 2.2 percent, and finishing at 285.70.

“Apparel sales were strong in all categories, being led by outerwear, boys’ and men’s,” Wal-Mart said in its prerecorded sales announcement for the week, adding that intimate apparel and HBA made a company list of bestsellers that also included electronics, household chemicals and pharmacy. The West and Northeast were cited as the strongest geographic regions.

Wal-Mart noted that its results were up for the week based on both more traffic and higher average tickets.

ShopKo Stores, based in Green Bay, Wis., reiterated guidance that its same-store sales this month would drop in the high-single digits.

Target Corp. said late Monday its comparable-store sales were above plan last week, driven by strength in women’s apparel and home improvement.