December Sales Roundup

Generally speaking, December sales for the publicly traded companies tracked by Multichannel Merchant were all over the place. As usual, the holiday season was merrier for some than for others.

December direct sales for J.C. Penney Co. sunk 12.9%, to $358 million, compared with $411 million in December 2006 – a bit above guidance for a decrease in the mid-teens range. What’s more, Internet sales for the Plano, TX-based general merchant decreased 5.1%. Total company sales fell 5.6%, to $3.17 billion, compared with $3.36 billion last year. Same-store sales decreased 7.5%. Company officials said sales across all channels were affected by the calendar shift resulting from last year’s 53rd week that moved a week of pre-holiday shopping into this year’s November reporting period.

Meanwhile, Dallas-based luxury merchant Neiman Marcus Group reported an 8.4% rise in December sales for Neiman Marcus Direct, which consists of the print catalog and online operations for Neiman Marcus and Horchow as well as the Bergdorf Goodman Website. Total December revenue for the cataloger/retailer increased nearly 5%, to $723 million.

December was another strong month for Hampstead, MD-based Jos. A. Bank Clothiers. The merchant’s sales for the month rose 9.3%, to $111.6 million, up from $102.1 million in December 2006. Direct sales for the menswear cataloger/retailer skyrocketed 14.3%, while same-store sales rose increased 2%.

Sales at Victoria’s Secret Direct continue to suffer from lingering problems associated with the new distribution center it opened in August. During a conference call Amie Preston, vice president of investor relations for Columbus, OH-based parent company Limited Brands, said December sales for Victoria’s Secret Direct fell 11% on a fiscal basis due to one less pre-holiday week versus last year. On a calendar basis, she said Victoria’s Secret Direct sales slipped 9% compared with 10% growth last year.

December sales at New Albany, OH-based apparel retailer Abercrombie & Fitch rose 9%, to $657.0 million, compared with $603.6 million in December 2006. Same-store sales for the month fell 2%. Total direct-to-consumer sales rose 35%, to $51.4 million.

San Francisco-based Sharper Image Corp endured another difficult month. Total company sales in December for the struggling electronic gifts merchant sunk 17%, to $97.2 million, compared to $117.5 million in December 2006. Same-store sales decreased 13%. The company did not break out specific figures for catalog/direct marketing (including wholesale) and Internet sales. “This holiday was a big test for our new management team and strategy,” CEO Steven A. Lightman said in a release. “Despite a highly competitive and promotional environment, we were pleased with our new product performance results in digital picture frames, portable navigation products, robotic toys and games, and wireless accessories.”

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December Sales Roundup

For the most part, this wasn’t the happiest of holiday seasons for the publicly traded companies tracked by MULTICHANNEL MERCHANT—though it wasn’t a blue Christmas either.

For instance, Philadelphia-based apparel and home decor merchant Urban Outfitters reported a 23% jump in its direct-to-consumer business, which includes the Anthropologie, Free People, and Urban Outfitters catalogs, for December. But while total December sales grew 15%, same-store sales dipped 5%.

The company’s total net sales for the two-month period from Nov. 1 through Dec. 31 rose 13% from the previous year, to $278 million. Much of the growth, however, resulted from a 21% increase in the number of stores in operation. Also contributing to the increase was a 21% rise in catalog and Web sales and a 19% increase in Free People wholesale sales.

December Web and catalog sales for women’s apparel merchant Victoria’s Secret Direct rose 10%, slightly below company expectations. Columbus, OH-based parent company Limited Brands reported a 6% increase in overall December sales, to $2.027 billion from $1.911 billion in 2005. Same-store sales increased 4%, which was below the company’s expectations of a high single-digit increase. In addition to Victoria’s Secret, Limited Brands includes the Express and Bath & Body Work retail chains.

“We were disappointed with December results, as November’s momentum failed to continue into December,” Amy Preston, vice president of investor relations, said during a Jan. 4 conference call. “Mall traffic and comps were strongest in the last week of the month, when customers were shopping for clearance.”

December sales for Plano, TX-based J.C. Penney Co. were also slightly disappointing. Direct sales dipped 1.4%, whereas the company had initially expected a low single-digit increase. Total direct sales for the five weeks ended Dec. 30 were $411 million. Internet sales rose 15%, on top of last year’s 26% rise.

Penney’s department-store sales increased 4%, to $2.95 billion, while same-store sales were up nearly 3%. The company’s total December sales climbed 3.5%, to $3.36 billion.

There wasn’t much in the way of glad tidings to mitigate the bad news at San Francisco-based Sharper Image Corp. December sales at the electronic gifts merchant sunk 22%, to $117.7 million from $150.3 million in 2005. Catalog/direct marketing sales (including wholesale) plummeted 42%, to $9.8 million from $16.9 million the previous December. Internet sales didn’t fare well either, falling 22%, to $21.2 million from $27.2 million. To round out the bad news, same-store sales tumbled 20%.

On the other hand, it was a holly jolly Christmas indeed for Hampstead, MD-based Jos. A. Bank Clothiers. The menswear cataloger/retailer posted a robust 20% rise in combined catalog and Internet sales for December. Total December sales increased 12%, to $102.1 million from $91.1 million the previous year. Same-store sales rose slightly, by 1.4%.

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