March Sales Roundup

March was another brutal month for the retailers tracked by Multichannel Merchant.

First off, total March sales for apparel retailer Abercrombie & Fitch sank 29%, to $235.1 million, compared to $330.2 million in March 2008. Direct-to-consumer sales decreased 23%, to $19.8 million. Same-store sales for March fell 34%.

Luxury marketer Neiman Marcus Direct’s sales for March fell 23.5%. The division consists of the print catalog and online operations for Neiman Marcus and Horchow, as well as the Bergdorf Goodman Website. For the month, the top selling merchandise category in the direct marketing segment was beauty.

March sales at women’s apparel marketer Victoria’s Secret Direct slipped 14%. The results reflect “overall demand softness and driven by declines in most merchandise categories, particularly clothing,” said Amie Preston, vice president of investor relations for Limited Brands, during a conference call.

J.C. Penney Co. was one of the lucky ones in that its sales shortfall was in the single digits. The general merchant no longer reports its direct sales results for the month, but it’s total company sales for March were down 5.4%, to $1.45 billion, compared to $1.53 billion in March 2008.

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March Sales Roundup

March presented a mix bag of direct sales results for the publicly traded companies tracked by MULTICHANNEL MERCHANT. The “winners” included Victoria’s Secret Direct and Jos. A. Bank Clothiers, while J.C. Penney suffered a dip in direct sales, and Sharper Image continued to see declines all around.

March Web and catalog sales for women’s apparel merchant Victoria’s Secret Direct rose 11%, in line with company expectations. Columbus, OH-based parent company Limited Brands reported an 8% increase in overall March sales, to $892.3 million for the five weeks ended April 7. In addition to Victoria’s Secret, Limited Brands includes the Express and Bath & Body Works retail chains. Same-store sales increased 2% for both Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works.

Total March sales for Hampstead, MD-based Jos. A. Bank Clothiers increased 10%, to $45.7 million. The menswear cataloger/retailer posted an 8% rise in March direct sales, while same-store sales crept up slightly more than 1%.

Dallas-based luxury merchant Neiman Marcus Group reported a 10% jump in March sales for Neiman Marcus Direct, which consists of the print catalog and online operations for Neiman Marcus and Horchow and the Bergdorf Goodman Website. March retail sales rose 10% as well.

At Vernon Hills, IL-based computer products reseller CDW Corp., March sales increased 19%, to $696.2 million. Average daily sales in March rose 24.6%, to $31.6 million.

But March direct sales for Plano, TX-based J.C. Penney Co. took a step backward. They decreased 1%, to $271 million. Company officials said direct sales “continue to be impacted by softness in home categories, which represent a large portion of the direct channel’s volume.” On a positive note, Penney’s Web sales rose 15.5%, on top of a 25% increase last March. Department-store sales increased more than 13%, to $1.44 billion, while same-store sales jumped nearly 11% following a 1% decrease a year ago. Total March sales increased 11%, to $1.71 billion.

Unfortunately, the fiscal song remains the same at San Francisco-based Sharper Image Corp. March sales at the electronic gifts merchant sunk 45%, to $22.1 million. Catalog/direct marketing sales (including wholesale) plummeted 71%, to $3.4 million from $11.8 million in March 2006. Internet sales fell 29%, to $3.4 million, and same-store sales decreased 29%.

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March Sales Roundup

It might be a different month, but the same fiscal woes continued to shadow Sharper Image Corp. But March was a productive month for most of the other publicly traded cataloger/retailers tracked by MULTICHANNEL MERCHANT.

At upscale apparel and decor mailer Neiman Marcus Direct, which includes the Horchow and Neiman Marcus titles, March sales increased 19%. Overall March sales for the Dallas-based parent, Neiman Marcus Group, increased 11%, to $389 million for the five weeks ended April 1.

March sales at women’s apparel merchant Victoria’s Secret Direct rose 10%, exceeding expectations. Parent company Limited Brands reported a 3% increase in overall March sales, to $788.2 million. In addition to Victoria’s Secret, Limited Brands includes the Express and Bath & Body Work retail chains.

The direct division of Plano, TX-based J.C. Penney Co. also exceeded expectation, posting a 5% rise in direct sales, to $274 million for the five weeks ended April 1. Internet sales increased 25%. At $1.27 billion, however, total company sales were down less than 1%, and same-store sales fell 1%. Hampstead, MD-based men’s apparel cataloger/retailer Jos. A. Bank Clothiers posted a robust 21% increase in its combined catalog and Internet sales for fiscal March. Total March sales increased 17%, to $41.5 million. Same-store sales rose more than 4%.

March sales at apparel merchant The Talbots decreased 3%, to $195.4 million from $201.7 million last year. Comparable store sales also fell 3%. The Hingham, MA-based cataloger/retailer does not break out monthly catalog sales data.

President/CEO Arnold B. Zetcher said in a statement: “While our March comparable store sales trends were on or near plan during most of the month, we saw a sharper-than-expected decline in customer demand in the third and fourth weeks of the period. We believe this was partially due to the shift of the Easter holiday to three weeks later vs. last year. In addition, a much weaker than anticipated performance of our spring catalogs also impacted our retail sales, as historically our catalogs have been our most important store traffic drivers.”

And year-over-year sales at San Francisco-based Sharper Image Corp. tumbled 26%, to $39.1 million for the month ended March 31. Total catalog/direct marketing sales (including wholesale) dropped 30%, to $11.1 million from $15.8 million the previous March; Internet sales fell 25%, to $6.6 million from $8.7 million.

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March Sales Roundup

We’ve all heard that “March comes in like a lamb and goes out like a lion.” And for the catalogers tracked by CATALOG AGE, March catalog sales came roaring in.

San Francisco-based gadgets cataloger/retailer Sharper Image (Nasdaq: SHRP) said catalog sales increased 51%, to $17.1 million from the previous March’s $11.3 million, exceeding expectations. Internet sales increased 79%, to $10.0 million from $5.6 million. Overall company sales for the month, meanwhile, increased 38%, to $54.8 million.

At Dallas-based Neiman Marcus Direct, which mails the upscale Horchow, Neiman Marcus, and Chef’s Catalog titles, March sales increased 16%. Retail sales for parent company Neiman Marcus increased 27%. Combined March direct and retail sales increased 26%, to $345 million.

Columbus, OH-based Limited Brands (NYSE: LTD), the parent of women’s apparel cataloger/retailer Victoria’s Secret, reported a comparable-store sales increase of 15% for March. Net sales increased 14%, to $783.7 million. March sales at Victoria’s Secret Direct increased 18%. Catalog/Internet sales at Plano, TX-based J.C. Penney (NYSE:JCP) rose 10%, to $261 million from $238 million for March 2003, exceeding expectations. Sales reflect good results from specialty catalogs and continued strength in Internet. Internet sales increased more than 50%. Comparable department store sales increase 11%. Total March Peney sales climbed 11%, to $1.6 billion.

Hingham, MA-based The Talbots (NYSE: TLB) saw total March sales rise 4%, to $195.5 million. Comparable-store sales increased 1% for the month. Talbots does not break out monthly catalog sales data in its financials. Lastly, there’s the plight of Downers Grove, IL-based Spiegel Group, which (for now) mails the Eddie Bauer, Newport News, and Spiegel catalogs. Overall March net sales fell 17%, to $130.2 million from $157.8 million last year. Catalog and e-commerce sales dropped 20%, despite sales increases at Newport News.

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March Sales Roundup

Like the weather, March sales for the publicly traded catalogers tracked by CATALOG AGE were unpredictable.

High-tech gadgets cataloger/retailer Sharper Image (Nasdaq: SHRP) enjoyed a 42% increase in March catalog sales, to $12.2 million from $8.5 million last year. Internet sales also increased 42%, to $5.7 million from $4.0 million. Total March sales for the San Francisco-based company increased 37%, to $41.1 million, while comparable store sales increased 20%.

Men’s apparel cataloger/retailer Jos. A. Bank Clothiers (Nasdaq NM: JOSB) had sales of $23.9 million for the month ended April 5. That’s up 12% from fiscal March 2002. Combined catalog and Internet sales rose 4%, and comparable store sales increased 2%.

Apparel cataloger/retailer The Talbots (NYSE:TLB) posted a 6% increase in March sales, to $187.1 million for the five weeks ended April 5. According to Arnold Zetcher, chairman/president/CEO of the Hingham, MA-based marketer, the increase began with the mailing of Talbots main spring catalog in early March, “which helped to drive customers into our stores, and the response to our new spring merchandise in both catalog and stores was favorable throughout the period.” Comparable store sales increased 1% for the month.

At Neiman Marcus Direct, which includes the Neiman Marcus, Horchow, and Chef’s Catalog titles, comparable revenue increased 13%. But comparable revenue in Neiman Marcus’s specialty retail stores segment, which includes Neiman Marcus Stores and Bergdorf Goodman, decreased 3%. Total revenue increased 2%, to $274 million.

Plano, TX-based J.C. Penney Co. (NYSE: JCP) reported a 13% drop in March catalog sales, to $238 million from $274 million last year. Total company sales decreased 4%, to $2.8 billion from $3.0 billion last March. Comparable department store sales decreased 5% for the five weeks ended March 29.

While Penney says sales for the first nine weeks of the quarter have been below plan and warns that first-quarter revenue will likely be lower than originally anticipated, the company does have some good news: Internet sales, which are included in catalog sales, increased 19%.

March sales at apparel cataloger/retailer J. Crew fell 1%, to $58.2 million for the five weeks ended April 5. Net sales for the New York-based marketer’s direct division were flat; comparable store sales for the retail division decreased 8%.

Net sales at Downers Grove, IL-based Spiegel Group fell 28%, to $157.8 million for the five weeks ended March 29. Last March, net sales totaled $217.8 million. Net catalog and e-commerce sales dropped 36%, due to lower customer demand as well as a planned reduction in circulation. The company also believes that sales were hurt by the company’s decision in early March to cease honoring the private-label credit cards issued by First Consumers National Bank to customers of its Eddie Bauer, Newport News, and Spiegel brands.

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