Holiday sales roundup: Penney, Spiegel, Fingerhut, Williams-Sonoma, and more

Penney’s direct sales down 20% for December

As anticipated, December catalog and Internet sales at general merchandise cataloger/retailer J.C. Penney Co. (NYSE: JCP) fell 20%. For the five weeks ended Dec. 29, direct sales were $465 million, compared with $582 million the previous December. The Internet accounted for $65 million in sales this December. According to a statement, the decline in catalog sales “continue to reflect the elimination of catalog participation in retail promotional events as well as the impact of a promotional retail environment.”

Penney’s department store sales for December rose more than 3%, to $2.65 billion from $2.56 billion for December 2000. Total sales for the Plano, TX-based company, which includes the Eckerd drugstore chain, rose less than 1%, to $4.63 billion from $4.61 billion. Home merchandise was Penney’s strongest product category, emjoying a double-digit sales increase. Women and men’s apparel and women’s accessories also sold well, the company reported.

Sales at Spiegel Group down across the board Downers Grove, IL-based Spiegel Group (NasdaqNM: SPGLA), which mails the Eddie Bauer, Newport News, and Spiegel catalogs, posted a 17% sales decline in December sales, to $447.8 million for the five weeks ended Dec. 29. Last year, the Spiegel Group’s December sales totaled $537.1 million.

Total direct sales declined 16% but Web sales increased 20%. Retail store sales decreased 17%. By division, Eddie Bauer sales declined 18%, Spiegel catalog 8%, and Newport News 30%. Commenting on the sales results for its Newport News women’s apparel division, the company stated that strong customer demand to its non-holiday catalogs was more than offset by weak response to catalogs with a holiday theme, especially holiday attire.

For the 52 weeks ended Dec. 29, sales were $2.78 billion, down 9% from $3.06 billion the previous year. Annual sales declined 9% at Eddie Bauer, 6% at Newport News, and 12% at Spiegel catalog. Spiegel warned that fourth-quarter and annual earnings will fall below analysts’ estimates due to the lower-than-expected fourth-quarter sales as well as the further deterioration in its credit-card business.

Fingerhut sales down 20% in December Cincinnati-based Federated Department Stores (NYSE: FD), whose catalogs include Bloomingdale’s by Mail and Fingerhut, said total December sales decreased 9%, to $3.00 billion from $3.29 billion last year. Same-store sales for the five weeks of December also decreased 9%. December sales in its Fingerhut subsidiary tumbled 20%, to $209 million from $260 million last year.

Intimate Brands December sales increase 3% Columbus, OH-based Intimate Brands (NYSE: IBI), which includes women’s apparel cataloger/retailer Victoria’s Secret, reported a 3% increase in December net sales. For the five weeks ended Jan. 5, total sales were nearly $1.15 billion, compared with less than $1.12 billion a year prior. Comparable store sales were flat. Victoria’s Secret’s Web and catalog sales were down 6% for the month, but Web sales alone climbed 17%. In fact, the Internet account for about 26% of victoria’s Secret’s holiday business.

Because December sales and margin results were better than expected, Intimate Brands expects to exceed the current First Call consensus estimate for the fourth-quarter earnings of $0.43 per share.

Pottery Barn Kids propels growth at Williams-Sonoma direct Home products and furnishings cataloger/retailer Williams-Sonoma (NYSE:WSM) reported stronger-than-expected holiday sales. Williams-Sonoma’s titles include Pottery Barn, Pottery Barn Kids, Pottery Barn Bed & Bath, Hold Everything, and Chambers.

Net revenue for the nine weeks ended Dec. 30 was $588.8 million, up 12% for the comparable period of 2000. Shipping fees accounted for $27.7 million of that revenue. Led by Pottery Barn Kids, catalog and Internet sales increased 3%, to $164.1 million. Comparable store sales increased 6%.

Williams-Sonoma expects net revenue for the fourth quarter to be $780 million-$785 million. Direct-to-customer sales are projected at $241 million-$242 million. Retail sales are expected to be between $499 million and $502 million. As for its fiscal year, the San francisco-based company expects net revenue to be $2.089 billion-$2.094 billion. Direct-to-customer sales are expected to be about $743 million-$744 million. Diluted earnings per share for fiscal 2001 are estimated to be $1.25-$1.28.

December catalog/web sales fall 14% at J. Crew For the five weeks ended Dec. 30, New York-based apparel cataloger/retailer J. Crew Group took in $124.6 million in sales. That’s down 16% from $148.2 million the previous December. Net sales for the direct division fell 14%. Internet sales dipped 3%, to $21.0 million from $21.7 million, while catalog sales plunged 44%, to $21.7 million from $38.9 million the previous December.

Brookstone’s direct holiday sales down 10% High-tech gadgets and gifts cataloger/retailer Brookstone (Nasdaq: BKST), whose titles include Gardener’s Eden and Hard-to-Find Tools, reported sales of $154 million for two months ended Jan. 5. That’s a 5% decline from the previous fiscal year. Catalog and Internet sales at the nashua, NH-based company decreased 10%, to $24 million.

Restoration Hardware’s direct sales increase 52% Corte Madera, CA-based home furnishings and accessories cataloger/retailer Restoration Hardware (Nasdaq: RSTO) enjoyed a 9% rise in holiday sales. Net sales for the nine weeks ended Jan. 5 were $121.6 million, compared with $111.7 million the year prior. Direct-to-customer sales, which include catalog and the Web, increased 52%.

December sales dip 4% for Talbots Hingham, MA–Women’s apparel cataloger/retailer The Talbots (NYSE: TLB) posted a 4% decline in December sales. For the five weeks ended Jan. 5, revenue was $207.6 million, compared with $215.2 million for the comparable period of the previous year. Comparable store sales decreased 8% for the month. The Hingham, MA-based company did not break out catalog sales.

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