Sandy Takes Toll on November Comps

Macy's, Nordstrom, Target among stores with declines for month.

The view outside the Macy's store.

Stores struggled, often with disappointing results, to make up ground lost to the wrath of Hurricane Sandy in November.

Thomson Reuters estimated that same-store sales for the month were up 1.6 percent, less than half the final 3.3 percent increase projected gain for the month. The figure excludes drug stores and Zumiez Inc., which is scheduled to report its monthly sales when it discloses third-quarter results after the market closes today.

Macy’s Inc. finished November with a 0.7 percent decline in comparable-store sales, below the 1.5 percent advance estimated by analysts. “Despite the largest-volume Thanksgiving weekend in our company’s history, we were not able to overcome the weak start to the month, which included the disruption of Hurricane Sandy,” said Terry Lundgren, chairman, president and chief executive offficer of the company. “Yet we remain on track to deliver a very strong sales performance in the fourth quarter.”

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Among other retailers based in the Northeast, The Bon-Ton Stores Inc. concluded November with a 0.1 percent decline. “Our sales gained momentum in the second half of November after experiencing a negative impact from Hurricane Sandy earlier in the month,” said Brendan Hoffman, president and ceo. “We were pleased with the traffic for Black Friday. The overall results for post-Thanksgiving were ahead of last year, led by record online orders which will benefit December sales.”

Nordstrom Inc. checked in with a rare decline as comps fell 1.1 percent, hurt by both the strength of Sandy and a promotional event for women’s and children’s that failed to meet expectations. “Customers continue to demonstrate a strong preference for fashion and newness, which has made clearance events less compelling,” the firm said. Stores in the Northeast and Middle Atlantic states were hurt by the hurricane’s dramatic impact, but “sales trends in the second half of the month rebounded to their recent historical level.”

Kohl’s Corp.’s comps fell 5.6 percent in November, putting its year-to-date decline at 1.1 percent. Kevin Mansell, chairman, president and ceo, commented, “We are encouraged by improved sales over the Thanksgiving week. There was a significant shift in Black Friday-related sales into our e-commerce channel.” E-commerce transactions and sales were both up more than 50 percent during Thanksgiving week, he said, and those sales will be included in December results.

Target Corp. fell short of its anticipated 2.1 percent increase with a 1 percent decline for the month. “November sales were below our expectations, reflecting weaker-than-planned sales performance in the first two weeks combined with stronger sales growth across all channels later in the month,” said Gregg Steinhafel, chairman, president and ceo.

Gap Inc. was up 3 percent for the month. Gap North America led the company portfolio with a 5 percent gain and while Old Navy lagged with a 1 percent increase.

Limited Brands Inc. was up 5 percent, a figure estimated to have been trimmed between 1 and 2 percentage points by Sandy’s impact early in November. Victoria’s Secret was up 4 percent and Bath & Body Works up 6 points. The company projected that its December comps would rise in the low-single digits.

Stage Stores Inc. provided the biggeset upside surprise of the month with a 13.2 percent increase in comps for the month, including a more than 20 percent increase the week of Thanksgiving. “Despite the disruptions caused by Superstorm Sandy early in the month, we achieved a comparable-store sales increase each week of November,” said Michael Glazer, president and ceo of Stage.

Stein Mart Inc., expected to generate a 2.5 percent increase, instead provided a robust 7.1 percent gain.

With respective gains of 3 percent and 2 percent, the nation’s largest off-price chains, The TJX Cos. Inc. and Ross Stores Inc., said they finished the month ahead of their sales plans. In both cases the figures were below the expectations of the analysts polled by Thomson Reuters.

Although far less damaging than Sandy’s impact in the east, weather took a toll in other regions of the country, too. Michael Balmuth, Ross’s vice chairman and ceo, noted that unseasonably warm temperatures hurt sales in the western U.S. during the first half of the month. “We are encouraged that our sales strengthened as weather normalized during the final two weeks,” he said.

For most companies reporting, fiscal November ended on Nov. 24, the Saturday after Thanksgiving.