Retailers struggling to grow sales
Yet some are doing better than others.
By Eric McWhinnie
Major retailers posted weak sales figures last week, indicating that consumers are still struggling with high unemployment and overall weak economic conditions.
In June, same-store sales for 20 chains in the Thomson Reuters index edged up only 0.1%, well below analyst estimates of 0.5% and the 6.7% increase a year earlier. It was the worst June for retailers in three years.
Discount retailer stocks such as Costco Wholesale (COST) and Target (TGT) have performed well this year, but both lost share value Thursday after failing to meet June estimates. Costco was expected to grow same-store sales by 3.7% but managed only a 3% increase. Meanwhile, Target reported an increase of 2.1%, below estimates of 2.4%.
"There is a dichotomy" among retailers, Nancy Liu, a retail strategist at Kurt Salmon, told Dow Jones Newswires. "If you're middle class, you're not going to spend freely across stores, because you're concerned about money. This makes for a more competitive environment for retailers."
Although many discount retailers struggled in June, higher-end names such as Nordstrom (JWN) and Saks (SKS) beat estimates. Nordstrom reported an increase of 8.1% in sales at stores open at least 12 months, while Saks posted a 6% increase. Shares of both companies jumped more than 2% in afternoon trading Thursday.
"The high-end consumer has fared particularly well throughout this recovery," Ken Perkins, the president of Retail Metrics, said in an interview with Los Angeles Times. "On the low end, a lot of middle-income consumers have traded down."
As the chart above shows, it has been a mixed year for retail stocks. TJX Companies (TJX) and Ross Stores (ROST) have led the pack with gains of more than 30% year to date. Meanwhile, Kohl's has lagged behind with negative gains. Costco and Target have both increased about 13% year to date.
One of the biggest standouts from the June numbers was Limited Brands (LTD), the parent of Victoria's Secret and Bath & Body Works. Same-stores sales surged 7% last month compared with expectations of only 2.4%. Limited posted an 11% same-store sales jump at Victoria's Secret.
"What's driving Victoria's Secret is two things," Dana Telsey, the CEO and chief research officer of Telsey Advisory Group, told CNBC. "No. 1 is the continuos flow of new product launches at competitive prices. No. 2 is the Pink category. The Pink category has expanded from beyond just intimate apparel to lounge wear, too, and it's younger and newer."
Limited shares have gained 15% this year.
Eric McWhinnie is an editor at Wall St. Cheat Sheet. As of this writing, he did not own a position in any of the aforementioned stocks.
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