Byline: Jennifer Weitzman

NEW YORK — Loyal customers made their way back to Chico’s FAS stores toward the end of September, allowing the Fort Myers, Fla.-based chain to squeak out a small comparable-store gain for the month.
Chico’s Wednesday reported a 1.1 percent same-store sales increase during the month. While a feat in itself during a month dominated by a weak economy before Sept. 11 and the terrorist attacks afterward, the September gain breaks Chico’s streak of 46 consecutive months of double-digit comp gains.
Shares of Chico’s rose $3.19, or 10.7 percent, to $33.10 on the New York Stock Exchange on a day when stocks rallied energetically. The Dow Jones Industrial Average traded up 188.42, or 2.1 percent, to 9,240.86 and the Nasdaq jumped 3.6 percent, or 56.07, to 1,626.26.
The company said it was running a double-digit comp increase prior to the attacks but, like the rest of the industry, suffered a severe setback as consumers were glued to their television sets. But Chico’s comps rebounded afterward and increased 21.8 percent in the last week of the month.
“This accomplishment reflects the strength of the Chico’s brand and the customer loyalty that has been created thanks to the dedication and energy of Chico’s entire store team,” Marvin Gralnick, Chico’s chief executive, said in a statement. “This strong sales momentum is continuing as we see sales results for the first two days of October.”
To get its customers back to the stores, Charles J. Kleman, chief financial officer, told WWD that Chico’s mailed Passport Club members a coupon doubling their normal 5 percent discount and advanced by one week its October catalog mailing. Markdowns were accelerated as well.

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