LATE RISERS: Thursday’s same-store sales reporting ritual had more than a little in common with the month it covered — slow at the start with a pickup at the end. The Wet Seal Inc. and Cato Corp., who’d wind up with the weakest performances of the month (down 9.7 and 7 percent, respectively), filed early in the morning while the better numbers — Nordstrom Inc. and Gap Inc.’s stronger-than-expected respective increases of 8.6 and 5 percent — came as the last data trickled in, along with upside surprises from Kohl’s Corp., Stein Mart Inc. and off-price titans The TJX Cos. and Ross Stores Inc.
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THE EXPECTATIONS GAME: Earlier estimates from Thomson Reuters called for a modest 2 percent median increase in reporting stores’ same-store sales, but that number was lowered to 1.7 percent Wednesday as more analysts filed their numbers and others lowered previously issued approximations. The final average for the month was 2.3 percent and, excluding drugstores, rose to 4.5 percent, 1.2 points better than anticipated. Promotional and based on a shrinking sample, to be sure, but far better than November’s 1.6 percent advance, which was hampered by Hurricane Sandy.
VALUE VICTORS: Tempting prices delivered the dollars to fashion merchants late in the month, but it was the stores that live and die by price every day that posted the best numbers overall. In addition to Nordstrom’s solid performance, the largest increases came from Costco Wholesale Corp. (8 percent excluding fuel sales), TJX and Ross (both up 6 percent) and Stein Mart Inc. (up 5.9 percent).