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.