September Sales Round-Up

Led by firm back-to-school sales, the publicly traded marketers tracked by CATALOG AGE ended September and entered the all-important fourth quarter on the right foot. Not even a mid-month visit from Hurricane Isabel could stop them.

Solid sales of back-to-school merchandise propelled Plano, TX-based J.C. Penney (NYSE: JCP) to a 13% rise in September catalog/Internet sales, to $245 million from $217 million the previous September. Internet sales alone climbed more than 60% for the month. Total company sales increased 1%, to $2.9 billion from $2.8 billion in September 2002.

Upscale Neiman Marcus Direct, which mails the Horchow, Chef’s Catalog, and Neiman Marcus titles, increased its September sales 7%. The Dallas-based division’s parent company, cataloger/retailer Neiman-Marcus Group (NYSE: NMG.A), enjoyed a 16% rise in total sales for the month, to $345 million for the fiscal month ended Oct. 4. Same-store sales rose 14%.

September catalog and Internet sales increased 30% at Hampstead, MD-based men’s apparel marketer Jos. A. Bank Clothiers (NasdaqNM: JOSB). Combined retail and direct sales increased 29%, to a record $27.7 million for the month ended Oct. 4. Comparable-store sales increased 13%.

Women’s apparel cataloger Victoria’s Secret Direct increased its September sales 11%. Its parent company, Columbus, OH-based Limited Brands (NYSE: LTD), also reported an 11% rise in net sales, to $714.4 million for the five weeks ended Oct. 4. Comparable-store sales increased 8%. Limited’s brands include Express, Henri Bendel, and Bath & Body Works.

Fort Myers, FL-based women’s apparel cataloger/retailer Chico’s FAS (NYSE: CHS) posted an impressive 58% leap in September sales, to a record $86.0 million for the five weeks ended Oct. 4. Comparable-store sales for the company-owned stores increased 22%.

Strong September sales weren’t limited to apparel. High-tech gadgets cataloger/retailer Sharper Image (Nasdaq: SHRP) posted a 25% increase, to $39.2 million for the period ended Sept. 30. Catalog sales for the San Francisco-based company increased 24%, to $12.1 million from the previous September’s $9.8 million. Internet sales jumped 44%, to $5.6 million from $3.9 million. Total store sales increased 22%, to $21.5 million; comparable-store sales increased 8%.

A few companies posted more modest results. Hingham, MA-based apparel cataloger/retailer The Talbots (NYSE: TLB) reported only a 3% sales increase, to $182.5 million for the five weeks ended Oct. 4. Comparable store sales increased less than 1% for the month.

Then there’s downtrodden Downers Grove, IL-based Spiegel Group, which mails the Eddie Bauer, Newport News, and Spiegel catalog titles. September net sales declined 21% from last year, to $145.3 million for the five weeks ended Sept. 27. Catalog and e-commerce sales decreased 30%, due to lower customer demand and reduced catalog circulation. There was, however, one cause for optimism: comparable-store sales at Eddie Bauer increased 7%.

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