Where have the consumers gone?
As the National Retail Federation expects a challenging holiday shopping season, retailers reporting September comparable-store sales posted mostly dismal results as warm weather delayed seasonal purchases and the shift of Labor Day failed to benefit results.
Specialty retailer The Buckle Inc. said comps for the month dropped 6.7 percent over last year while Stein Mart Inc. delivered a 2.8 percent same-store sales decline. Zumiez Inc.’s same-store sales for the month showed a 1.8 percent drop, which was better than the 7.4 percent decline of consensus estimates. Even warehouse club retailer Costco Wholesale Corp. — usually one of the standouts in monthly sales — said comps were flat.
The only bright spot was Cato Corp. with a 2 percent gain. “September same-store sales were above our guidance,” said John Cato, chairman, president and chief executive officer, adding that as a result, third-quarter earnings will be in the range of 18 to 22 cents versus prior guidance of 12 to 16 cents. Cato also said during the month, the company opened six stores and closed two. It currently operates 1,367 stores in 32 states.
Stein Mart said that September sales were “impacted by unseasonably warm weather, one less week of post-Labor Day fall fashion selling and a shift of promotional events, including a shoe and accessories event being moved from September to October.” The retailer also noted that sales in the Mid-Atlantic region “were unfavorably impacted by heavy rain associated with Hurricane Joaquin the last week of the period.”
Hurricane Joaquin left many areas in the South — notably South Carolina — with record rainfall and severe flooding. Major retailers including Wal-Mart Stores Inc. closed units, and the recovery has been somewhat slow.