December Sales Round-Up

For example, Hampstead, MD-based men’s apparel cataloger/retailer Jos. A Bank (NasdaqNM: JOSB) said its combined catalog and Internet sales increased 34% for the month ended Dec. 31. Total net sales also increased 34% to $91.1 million, compared with $68.0 million. Comparable store sales increased 21%.

December direct sales at Victoria’s Secret Direct, part of Columbus, OH-based Limited Brands (NYSE: LTB), jumped 17%, which was above company expectations. The direct division’s plan to drive sales closer to holiday, such as a free shipping upgrade to second day air, evidently proved successful. Total company net sales increased 5% to $1.911 billion for the five weeks ended Dec. 31, compared to net sales of $1.815 billion last year.

Dallas-based Neiman Marcus Direct (NYSE: NMG.A), which includes the print and online operations of Horchow, Neiman Marcus, and Bergdorf Goodman brands, reported a 25% increase in sales for the period ended Dec. 31. The top-selling merchandise categories in the direct marketing segment included jewelry, shoes, handbags, and women’s apparel. The specialty retail segment, which includes Neiman Marcus Stores and Bergdorf Goodman, increased 5%.

December direct-to-consumer sales rose 24% at Philadelphia-based Urban Outfitters (NasdaqNM: URBN), the parent company of the Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters, and Free People brands. The Free People wholesale segment surged 119%. Gift card sales during the holiday jumped 50% compared with last year. December comparable sales grew 6%, compared with a 15% growth for the same period last year. “Holiday sales at our Free People and Urban Outfitters stores were robust but Anthropologie store sales, while ‘comp’ positive, were below plan,” said chairman/president Richard A. Hayne in a statement.

Indeed, some marketers reported more modest gains. Plano, TX-based general merchant J.C. Penney (NYSE:JCP) saw a 4% increase in catalog/Internet sales to $417 million for the five weeks ended Dec. 31, compared with $400 million last year, which was slightly ahead of its previous guidance. Sales for jcpenney.com increased approximately 26% in December. Total J.C. Penney sales increased 1% to $3.25 billion, compared with $3.15 billion last year.

Hingham, MA-based cataloger/retailer of classic women’s apparel The Talbots (NYSE: TLB) reported total company sales increased 3% to $222.8 million for the five weeks ended Dec. 31, compared with $217.3 million last year. Comparable store sales increased 1% for the month. Talbots does not release catalog sales data in its monthly sales releases.

And some merchants, such as high-tech gifts cataloger/retailer Sharper Image (Nasdaq: SHRP), would have been happy with any gains. For the month ended Dec. 31, total catalog sales/direct marketing sales fell 26% to $16.9 million, compared with last December’s $23.0 million. Internet sales fell 10% to $27.2 million compared to last December’s $24.8 million. Total company sales fell 9% to $150.2 million compared with $164.3 million last year. Total store sales were $106.1 million compared to $116.5 million in the prior December, a decrease of 9%. Comparable store sales in December tumbled 15%.

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December Sales Round-up

Holiday 2004 was a mixed bag for the publicly traded cataloger/retailers tracked by CATALOG AGE. Among the winners was Philadelphia-based Urban Outfitters (Nasdaq: URBN), which operates women’s apparel and home décor cataloger/retailer Anthropologie and apparel brand Free People in addition to the eponymous apparel and décor catalog/retail brand. For the two-month holiday season ending Dec. 31, catalog and online sales were up 57% from the previous year. Comparable store sales for December grew 18% for Anthropologie, 12% for the Urban Outfitters brand, and 61% for Free People, with Free People’s wholesale sales up 122%. Sales of gift cards during the holiday period were up 61% from the previous year.

Holiday sales at Dallas-based Neiman Marcus Direct, part of the $3.3 billion high-end Neiman Marcus Group (NYSE: NMG.A), increased 14%. The direct business now consists of décor title Horchow and apparel and décor brand Neiman Marcus; Chef’s Catalog was sold last November to San Francisco private equity firm JH Partners and was not included in its financials. Comparable revenue in the Specialty Retail Stores segment, which includes Neiman Marcus Stores and Bergdorf Goodman, increased 10%.

Not to be outdone, Corte Madera, CA-based Restoration Hardware (Nasdaq: RSTO) said that direct-to-customer revenue grew 54% compared with last year. Comparable store sales increased 3% for the nine weeks ended Jan. 1.

Apparel cataloger/retailer The Talbots (NYSE: TLB) said total December sales increased 11%, to $221.5 million for the five weeks ended Jan. 1. Comparable store sales rose nearly 3%. The Hingham, MA-based company does not break out monthly direct sales data.

The direct-to-customer unit at women’s apparel cataloger/retailer Victoria’s Secret enjoyed a 12% boost in December sales. Comparable store sales for the brand, part of Columbus, OH-based Limited Brands(NYSE: LTD), increased 2%, short of company expectations.

Retail sales at Merrimack, NH-based Brookstone (Nasdaq: BKST), which mails the Brookstone, Hard-to-Find Tools, and Gardeners Eden catalogs, fell short of expectations as well. Same-store sales were flat, however, following last year’s holiday season increase of nearly 13 %. Direct-to-consumer holiday sales, however, increased 26%, to $42 million for the nine-week period ended Jan. 1. Total year-over-year holiday sales increased 8%, to $215 million. Nonetheless, the gadgets, tools, and gardening accessories merchant warned that its fourth-quarter earnings would miss expectations as a result of the retail performance.

Plano, TX-based J.C. Penney Co. (NYSE: JCP) reported mixed results as well. December catalog and Internet sales increased 7% ,to $400 million from $375 million in 2003. But department stores fell 1%, to $2.8 billion. Total sales were down slightly, to $3.20 billion from $3.21 billion the previous December.

The holiday season was disappointing overall for San Francisco-based gadgets marketer Sharper Image (Nasdaq: SHRP). Total December catalog/direct marketing sales (including wholesale) fell 3%, to $23.0 million from $23.9 million the previous December. Internet sales increased 5%, to $24.8 million. Total company sales for the month increased 6%, to $164.3 million from the previous December’s $155.6 million. Total store sales increased 8%, but comparable store sales decreased 7%.

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