March sales round-up

Stamford, CT—As far as sales go, March had its ups and downs for the publicly-traded marketers tracked by Catalog Age. Some blame the timing of the Easter holiday, which occurred in late March this year rather than April, for lackluster results, while others credit Easter with boosting sales for the month. But even those that say they benefited from Easter falling on March 31 will likely see a downside: lower sales in April.

On the plus side, total sales for Hampstead, MD–based men’s retailer Jos. A. Bank Clothiers (NasdaqNM:JOSB) increased 24%, to $21.3 million, compared with $17.2 million last year. Better still, catalog and Internet sales increased a whopping 40% for the month, while comparable store sales increased 12%. The company says gross profit margins continued to improve in comparison to last year.

Columbus OH-based The Limited, which mails the Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works catalogs, (NYSE: LTD) reported that net sales for the five weeks ended April 7 were $791.5 million, up 13% from sales of $702.7 million last year. (March 2001 sales include Lane Bryant, which was sold to Charming Shoppes in August.) The Limited owns retailers such as Express, Express Men’s (Structure), Lerner New York, Limited Stores, White Barn Candle Co. and Henri Bendel. Comparable store sales increased 9%. The Limited says that the timing of the Easter holiday has a positive effect on March sales, but April will be “negatively impacted.”

At Hingham, MA-based classic women’s apparel cataloger/retailer The Talbots (NYSE: TLB), total company sales for the five week period ended April 6 increased 6%, to $177.1 million, compared with $166.9 million last year. Softer-than-expected trends at the start of its mid-season sale, which began on March 21st, prompted the company to reduce prices on additional new merchandise and take deeper markdowns on existing sale items to increase customer traffic and clear those items more quickly. Although these actions benefited the company’s comparable store sales performance in March, they will have a negative impact on first quarter earnings. That’s why Talbots is taking a slightly more conservative outlook on April sales expectations. As a result, the company expects first quarter earnings to be in the range of $0.53-$0.55 per diluted share versus last year’s $0.62, and below the previously range of $0.63-$0.65 per diluted share.

While some marketers are nervous about what April will bring, others are still reeling from dismal sales in March. New York-based casual apparel cataloger/retailer J. Crew reported that March revenue was flat, at $58.9 million, nearly identical to last year. Net sales for the direct division, which includes catalogs, decreased 7% for March. Comparable store sales for the retail decreased 11% from last year. According to a statement from CEO Mark Sarvary: “The response to our spring assortments has been mixed, with strong performance in woven shirts offset by continuing weakness in our sweater business.”

Downers Grove, IL-based Spiegel Group (Nasdaq: SPGLA), which mails the Eddie Bauer, Newport News, and Spiegel catalogs, reported that total sales dropped 15%, to $217.8 million for the five week period ended March 30. Spiegel Group’s sales totaled $254.8 million last year. By division, March sales declined 11% at Eddie Bauer, 28% at Newport News, and 11% at the Spiegel catalog. Sales results reflect weak customer demand, combined with lower catalog circulation and less promotional activity compared to the prior year. Total direct sales declined 15% and the group’s retail store sales decreased 13%. The only bright spot for Spiegel: Web sales increased 16% for the month.

And while total company sales at Plano, TX—based cataloger/retailer J.C. Penney jumped 4%, to $3.0 billion, (NYSE: JCP) its catalog continue to be affected by the elimination of unprofitable promotions and media, which drove sales through last year’s first quarter. Catalog sales decreased 23%, to $275 million, from $355 million last year.

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March Sales Round-Up

Stamford, CT–For most publicly-traded cataloger/retailers tracked by Catalog Age, sales and profits were in the doldrums. For instance, Downers Grove, IL-based Spiegel Group, (Nasdaq: SPGLA), which mails the Eddie Bauer, Newport News and Spiegel catalogs, reported that sales for the five weeks ended March 31 decreased 3%, to $254.8 million, from sales of $262.4 million last year.

Both Spiegel’s retail store sales and direct sales decreased 3%. Web sales increased 82%, but catalog sales decreased 12% in March. By company, Spiegel reported that March sales for its Newport News apparel catalog division grew 9%, while sales for its Eddie Bauer clothing and home products unit decreased 3%. Spiegel’s general merchandise catalog sales decreased 11% for the month.

Hingham, MA-based cataloger/retailer of classic women’s apparel Talbots (NYSE: TLB) reported that total sales for the five weeks ended April 7 decreased 3%, to $166.9 million, from $172.1 million for the same period a year ago. March store sales fell 8.1% from a year ago. A company release blames stormy winter weather at the beginning of March, which forced the company temporarily close more than 130 stores. Talbots also said results were hurt when it moved its mid-season sale a week earlier this year.

Columbus, OH-based Intimate Brands, which mails the Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works catalogs, (NYSE: IBI) said net sales were flat at $366.1 million for the five-week period ended April 7, compared to $366.7 million in net sales for the same period last year. Parent IBI reported that comparable store sales for its subsidiaries decreased 9%.

Cincinnati-based Federated Department Stores (NYSE: FD), which mails the Bloomingdale’s By Mail, Macy’s By Mail, and Fingerhut catalogs, reported that total company sales decreased 5.9%, to $1.431 billion, for the period ended April 7, from $1.520 billion last year. Sales at troubled subsidiary Fingerhut decreased 34%, to $114 million from sales of $172 million last year, which reflect Fingerhut’s recent downsizing. Federated’s comparable store sales in March decreased 3.2%.

At Plano, TX-based general merchandise giant J.C. Penney, (NYSE: JCP) total company preliminary sales for the five weeks ended March 31, decreased 0.2% to $2,872 billion from $2,877 billion in the same period last year. Catalog sales for March decreased 10.4%, to $355 million, from $396 million, which Penney blames on the elimination of underperforming specialty catalogs, the closing of outlet stores, and generally weak demand from the Spring/Summer big book. Web sales, which are included in catalog sales, were $33 million in March, compared to $20 million in March 2000.

For San Francisco-based gadgets cataloger/retailer Sharper Image (Nasdaq: SHRP), it appeared that March sales came roaring in like a lion. Riding the strength of sales from proprietary products, such as its popular Razor scooter and the Ionic Breeze air purifier, March catalog sales rose a whopping 45%, to $6.3 million, from $4.3 million in March 2000. Internet sales increased 20% to $3.4 million, from $2.8 million. Total Sharper Image sales for March increased 17%, to $23 million, from last March’s $19.8 million.

Even so, Sharper Image failed to meet its plan.“While we are encouraged by the sales results during this difficult economic climate, they were below our expectations,” said company founder/chairman/CEO Richard Thalheimer in a statement. “Without the higher sales, our advertising expenditures and existing infrastructure costs represent a greater proportion of our revenue than we planned. If the current sales trend continues, we currently believe that operating loss per share for the first quarter ending April 30, 2001 may range between $0.22 and $0.27 cents per share.”

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