NEW YORK — The WWD Composite Stock Index slipped 0.2 percent last week to close at 1,082.62 from 1,085.20 a week ago, as the relentless hurricane season continued to cast a pall over retail sales throughout much of the Southeast.
Among the broader indices, the S&P 500 finished at 1,128.55, up 0.4 percent from 1,123.92 a week ago.
As Ivan was downgraded to a tropical storm and Jeanne was upgraded to a hurricane, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world’s largest retailer, said 77 of its roughly 600 facilities in the Southeast were closed. With 209 facilities in Florida, 105 in Alabama, 96 in Louisiana, 138 in Georgia and 53 in Mississippi, Wal-Mart is in hurricane alley, and investors responded by trading down its stock 1.8 percent to $52.48 from $53.45 a week ago. The retailer’s shares have fallen more than 4 percent, or $2.36, since Aug. 18, acting as a brake on the wider WWD Index.
Pulling in the other direction this week, however, was Federated Department Stores Inc., which saw its shares add 2.8 percent to close at $46.10 versus $44.84 last week. The company’s stock got a boost after Federated said it will convert all of its units — except Bloomingdale’s — to the Macy’s nameplate in January. The change will make Macy’s a $13.5 billion, 423-unit national chain and, if Federated has its way, evolve the nameplate so it becomes known as “America’s department store.”
Gap Inc. also released fairly momentous news last week, but investors just yawned. The nation’s biggest specialty retailer said it will target women aged 35 and older with a new concept, but chief executive officer Paul Pressler acknowledged it could be up to two years before there is any significant rollout of the format. Wall Street responded by trading down Gap’s shares by a penny, or 0.04 percent, to $20.01 from $20.02 last week. While Gap disclosed few details about the new division, up to 10 stores are expected to open in fall 2005.
Gottschalks Inc. celebrated its 100th birthday on Friday by ringing the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange and enjoying the fact that its stock shot up 32.8 percent last week to $6.40 from $4.82. But investors didn’t buy Gottschalk’s stock for mere sentimental reasons: the 73-unit chain tripled its earnings in the past 12 months. Moreover, the retailer, which is boosting its bottom line through cost cuts, forecast fiscal 2004 earnings of 41 to 43 cents a share, which would almost triple last year’s profits.
Amid speculation over a possible bankruptcy filing, ailing specialty retailer Wet Seal Inc. said it appointed Rothschild Inc. as its financial adviser. The company’s stock closed the week at $1.56, up 9.9 percent from $1.42 a week ago.
For insight into what drives fashion and retailing — and, by extension, the WWD Index — the American Apparel & Footwear Association and Emanuel Weintraub Associates will host an issues and solutions conference titled “Creativity: From Concept to Market” on Sept. 30 at the Princeton Club in New York. Panel presentations will be made by Kenneth Cole, ceo of Kenneth Cole Productions; Federated’s chief creative officer Joe Feczko; David Meister, president of the Kellwood-owned company that bears his name; Liz Claiborne executive vice president Trudy Sullivan; and Elie Tahari, ceo of Elie Tahari Ltd.
— Dan Burrows