STUMBLE IN SEATTLE: Nordstrom Inc. weathered a 2.3 percent drop in its December comparable-store sales and a 0.2 percent decline in overall volume for the month. Adjusting for differences between the 2001 and 2000 calendars, comps would have declined 2.1 percent, while total sales would have eked out a 0.1 percent increase. The Seattle-based retailer said adjusted December comps were down in all geographic regions but ahead in the women’s shoes, juniors, cosmetics and children’s wear categories. Additionally, it reported that comps at full-line stores were up 4.3 percent during the final six days of 2001, which coincide with the first six days of its Men’s Half-Yearly event. Comps for the first two months of the fourth quarter are off 3.6 percent, with year-to-date comps down 2.9 percent.

SEARS RETOOLS: Sears, Roebuck & Co.’s 2002 expansion plans include 15 new full-line stores, seven of which will be relocations of existing units. Sears also plans to remodel 50 stores as it begins a four-year plan to update about 600 of its larger stores with many of the features it’s putting into new store designs, including centralized checkouts and simplified signage. In a statement, Sears chief executive Alan Lacy noted that the firm’s new and renovated units will “emphasize better classic apparel while highlighting our strong appliance, electronics and home improvement merchandise.”

MAY MEETS MOODY’S: Rating agency Moody’s Investors Service placed The May Department Stores Co.’s long-term debt on review for possible downgrade, citing “a sated apparel market and a slower economy.” The firm’s debt currently resides at “A1,” well within prime territory. May Co.’s prime-1 commercial paper rating was confirmed and is not under review, due to the company’s “established brand franchises, geographic diversity and superior execution,” said Moody’s.

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