Catalog sales wilt in August

Catalog sales for the publicly traded marketers tracked by Catalog Age seemed to wilt under the hot August sun, as several companies lower-than expected results.

Plano, TX-based cataloger/retailer J.C. Penney (NYSE: JCP) finished off August by taking in $2.50 billion for the four-week period ended Aug. 24, up 1% compared to $2.48 billion last year. That’s good news, right? Except that catalog sales fell 25%, to $186 million, from $247 million last year. The company attributes the shortfall to continued weakness in consumer demand. Comparable department store sales for the period increased 2.9% above last year. Not surprisingly, sales were led by fine jewelry and back to school apparel categories.

And usually reliable classic women’s apparel cataloger/retailer The Talbots (NYSE: TLB) said sales for the four-week period ended Aug. 31 increased 1% to $90.0 million, compared with $88.9 million last year. But comparable store sales decreased 4% for the month, driven in part by low levels of inventory. Hingham, MA-based Talbots does not supply catalog sales information on its monthly sales releases.

Dallas-based multititle marketer The Neiman Marcus Group (NYSE: NMG.A), which mails the Horchow, Neiman Marcus, and Chef’s Catalog titles, reported weaker than expected sales. In the four-week period ended Aug. 31, comparable revenues in the Specialty Retail Stores segment, which includes Neiman Marcus Stores and Bergdorf Goodman, decreased 5%, to $188 million. Comparable revenues at Neiman Marcus Direct, in the four-week August period increased 3% led by Horchow.

Troubled multichannel marketer Downers Grove, IL-based The Spiegel Group, which mails the Newport News, Eddie Bauer, and Spiegel catalogs reported that sales fell 21% to $149.6 million for the four-week period ended Aug. 24, compared to sales of $188.7 million last year.

Breaking it down by division, August declines were 13% at Eddie Bauer, 26% at Newport News, and 33% at Spiegel catalog. Sales results for Spiegel Catalog and Newport News continue to reflect the effects of more restrictive credit-granting measures taken in the company’s private-label credit card business, which is aligned with strategies to attract and retain higher-quality credit customers. Reduced catalog circulation also contributed to lower sales at Spiegel and Newport News.

New York-based cataloger/retailer J. Crew said August revenue for the four weeks ended Aug. 31, fell 6% to $ 59.7 million compared to revenues of $63.6 million last year. Net sales for the Direct division, which includes catalogs and the Website, decreased 11% for the period. Comparable store sales for the Retail division decreased 13% compared with last year.

There were a few bright spots, however. San Francisco-based gadgets mailer Sharper Image (NYSE: SHRP) for one posted an 81% increase in catalog sales to $11.4 million, which fueled August revenue to $34.5 million–a 40% increase compared with last year. Retail store sales rose by 17% to $19.5 million, while comparable store sales increased 15%.

For Hampstead, MD-based men’s apparel cataloger/retailer Jos. A. Bank Clothiers (Nasdaq NM: JOSB) August sales increased 20.3% to $14.3 million, compared with $11.9 million last year. Combined catalog and Web sales increased 11%.

Columbus, OH-based Limited Brands (NYSE: LTD), which mails the Victoria’s Secret catalog, reported that company wide comparable store sales increased 1% for the four weeks ended Aug. 31. Net sales were $642.8 million, an increase of 5% compared to adjusted sales of $613.7 million last year. Adjusted sales in 2001 exclude sales from Lane Bryant, which was sold to Charming Shoppes, in August 2001. Net sales for the four weeks ended Sept. 1, 2001 including Lane Bryant were $641.0 million.

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