ANALYST SEES STRONG 2ND HALF DESPITE SLOW SEPTEMBER SALES

NEW YORK — September retail sales were soft, according to NatWest Securities analyst Robert F. Buchanan, but he still expects the second half of the year to be strong overall.
Though retailers will not announce results for September sales until Thursday, Buchanan said same-store sales by his estimate came in at 3.3 percent, a slowdown from August’s 4.8 percent gain and July’s 5.2 percent lift.
He said unseasonably cool temperatures boosted sales in the eastern U.S. during the fourth week of the retail calendar’s five-week month, but unseasonably warm weather dented sales in the West Coast.
Weather aside, Buchanan said September “simply didn’t ‘happen’ for many retailers,” some of whom labored to make their plans while others fell short.
Among those he expects to show healthy September same-store sales are Wal-Mart, projected to show a 6 percent advance, and Dayton Hudson’s Target division, estimated to move ahead 5-6 percent.
Neiman Marcus is also expected to be a winner, with a 4-5 percent gain. At Kmart, he estimates a 3-4 percent rise in same-store sales.
Buchanan said in a research note released Friday: “While September’s estimated below-trend performance may prompt some minor revisions in the third-quarter earnings-per-share estimates in the days ahead, we remain optimistic about overall second-half prospects in view of the twin positives of strong growth in buying power and a solid product offering.”
He said inventory levels and mixes are not in bad shape heading into October, and margins shouldn’t face undue pressure for the third quarter as a whole.

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