July catalog sales for the publicly traded cataloger/retailers tracked by CATALOG AGE melted away like a toddler’s ice cream cone in the summer heat.
Downers Grove, IL-based Spiegel Group, which mails the Eddie Bauer, Newport News, and Spiegel catalogs, reported a 13% decline in total July sales, to $139.1 million for the four weeks ended July 27 from $160.0 million last July. Total direct sales declined 19%, and the group’s retail store sales decreased 6%. Web sales inched up 1% for the month.
By division, July sales fell 2% at Eddie Bauer, 15% at Newport News, and 33% at Spiegel catalog. The company said in a statement that the Spiegel catalog and Newport News “continue to be restrained by more-stringent credit-granting measures taken in the company’s private-label credit-card business. While these measures are negatively impacting sales near-term, they are an integral part of strategies aimed at attracting and retaining higher-quality credit customers and building stronger long-term customer relationships.” Plano, TX-based cataloger/retailer J.C. Penney (NYSE: JCP) continues to struggle as well. Catalog sales decreased 23%, to $160 million from $209 million, due to continued weak demand as well as circulation cuts. Total July Penney sales fell O.6%, to $2.1 billion from $2.2 billion last year, due to low levels of inventory resulting from stronger-than-planned sales during the first quarter.
Dallas-based Neiman Marcus Group (NYSE: NMG.A) was not without its challenges. Sales at the Neiman Marcus Direct unit, which includes the Horchow and Chef’s Catalog titles, declined 2% in July. Total company revenue fell 3%, to $165 million from $170 million last year.
Even the usually reliable apparel cataloger/retailer The Talbots (NYSE: TLB) reported lackluster results. Company sales decreased 11%, to $94.5 million from $106.6 million for July 2001. For the quarter, the Hingham, MA-based cataloger/retailer said catalog sales decreased 5% to $47.4 million from $49.8 million, due to a planned lower circulation. Talbots did not break out monthly catalog sales. Comparable store sales decreased 19.0% for the month due to significantly lower levels of markdown inventory.
The quarter was not without its success stories. San Francisco-based high-tech gadgets marketer Sharper Image (Nasdaq: SHRP) said catalog sales increased a whopping 67%, to $9.8 million from last July’s $5.9 million. The catalog division’s wholesale business performed well, and tests of several new proprietary products contributed to the sales increase as well. What’s more, the sale increases came without significant promotions at improved gross margins.
Sharper Image’s Web sales, including auction sales, increased 25%, to $3.5 million from last July’s $2.8 million. Total company sales for the month increased 35%, to $31.2 million from last July’s $23.2 million. Total store sales increased 23% to $17.9 million from $14.6 million; comparable store sales increased 9%.
Finally, newly reunited Columbus, OH-based Limited Brands (NYSE: LTD) reported that Victoria’s Secret Direct, the catalog and Internet division of the apparel/lingerie brand increased 9%, to $249.2 million from $229.1 million last July. Limited also owns a number of retail chains, including Victoria’s Secret, Bath & Body Works, Express, Express, and White Barn Candle Co. The company’s total net sales for the month were $582.9 million, up 6% from a year ago.