After two solid months of comparable store sales gains at retail, the market got a taste in June of what may be one of two things. It was either a blip on the map from a shift in weather and tough comparisons to the prior year or the start of a slowing trend that may signal issues for the Back-to-School and Holiday selling seasons. With BTS just weeks away from its traditional start, retailers are already a bit nervous about the building pressure of higher interest rates and inflation, led by higher energy prices.
Based on data compiled by the International Council of Shopping Centers, U.S. chain store sales grew just 2.6% for the five-week June retail month after a 4.1% increase in May and a 6.6% gain in April that got a boost from the Easter calendar shift.
Still, the news wasnt all bad as the Luxe guys continued to outpace the market with better than average results. Sakss Inc. got a boost in its results after it jettisoned its mid-tier nameplates to Belk and The Bon Ton, posting a 4.7% comp sales gain for the remaining Saks Fifth Avenue and Parisian doors. Nordstrom also posted a 4.7% comp sales gain, but Nieman Marcus again took the Luxe crown with a 7.7% increase for the month. It was a mixed bag for the balance of the department stores as JC Penney, Kohls, and The Bon Ton posted better-than-expected results in the mid-market, while Federated fell flat after a very strong May period.
Overall, department stores were up 3.8% for June on a comp store basis, while the Luxe retailers rose 4.8% for the month.
While the upper-end consumer is still managing to absorb inflationary pressure, the same cant be said for the traditional discount consumer that has been hit hardest by the rise in gasoline prices. Wal-Mart came up short for the month, comping up just 1.2% for the month versus the 2.0% gain expected by analysts, but Target again showed that its customer base acts more like the Luxe consumer than a discount consumer, posting a 5.4% increase for the period. In a similar trend, Sams Club showed sluggish comp sales gains while Costco rang up a 6.0% comp sales increase for the month.
Excluding the weak Wal-Mart results, ICSC projected that June comp sales actually rose 4.0% for June.
Golf Galaxy, Inc. saw net sales for June jump 39% to $42.1 million from $30.4 million for the same period last year. Management attributed the sales growth to sales at new stores paired with a 2.9% comparable store sales gain and The GolfWorks business, which was acquired in mid-March.
Pacific Sunwear reported that total sales for the June period were $126.1 million, an increase of 4.6% over total sales of $120.6 million during the same period last year. Total company same-store sales decreased 2.7% during the same period. By concept, PacSun comps decreased 2.0% and d.e.m.o. comps declined 8.5% compared to the same five week period last year.
Geographically, management pointed to strength in Texas, SoCal, and the Pacific Northwest, but saw weakness in New England and the Mid-Atlantic states.
The guys business at PacSun was up in the mid-singles, bolstered by contnued strength in swimwear, shorts, and polos, but was offset by a mid-singles decline in the girls business where weakness in tanks, tubes, and denim offset strong comps gains in swimwear and shorts. The company said that “footwear was a major drag” due to weakness in sneakers, but also noted that comps in the girls footwear and girls denim businesses were up on the new Roxy footwear line and a girls basic denim program.
At d.e.m.o., girls decreased in the mid-singles, while guys was down in the high-singles. Overall, average unit retail was up in the low-singles, but total comp transactions were down in the low-singles.
Assuming a continuation of the quarter-to-date comp trend, PSUN management said that it believes that second quarter earnings will be in the range of 19 cents to 21 cents per diluted share.
The Buckle, Inc. net sales for the month decreased 2.0% to $37.3 million from net sales of $38.1 million in the corresponding five-week period last year. Comparable store net sales decreased 5.9% for the month. Sales in guys increased 5% over last year, accounting for a 46.5% share of all sales. Management pointed to strength in knit shirts, active apparel, and denim as fuel for the growth. The strong guys result was offset, however, by a 7.5% decrease in girls sales, which management attributed, for the most part, to last years strong results. Accessories sales were down 10% while footwear fell 20%.
Zumiez Inc. saw total net sales for June increase 38.2% to $21.2 million, compared to $15.3 million for the same period last year. The company’s comparable store sales increased 12.4% for the month on top of a 10.7% gain in the year ago period. The recently acquired Fast Forward stores are not included in the comp results.
Comps were up 12.1%, 14.0%, 11.0%, 13.9%, and 10.9% for the first through the fifth weeks of the fiscal month, respectively. Management attributed the strong sales results to sales in new stores, an increase in average unit retail, and an increase in comp transactions. Mens was the main driver of the growth, but all departments comped positive.
Shoe Pavilion, Inc. saw net sales jump 26.0% to $31.4 million for the second quarter ended July 1, 2006 from $24.9 million for the same quarter last year. Comparable store sales increased 3.9% on top of last years 8.2% comp gain. Sales from new stores and relocated stores contributed $7.9 million. SHOE opened four new stores and closed one store when the lease expired. The company opened two stores in April, one in Bellevue, Washington and one in Huntington Beach, California and opened two stores in June in Sacramento and Montebello, Calif.
ICSC said it expects comp sales to rise 3.0% to 3.5% in July, due in large part to easier comparisons to last years results.