US apparel retailers reported mixed October comparable store sales

US apparel retailers reported mixed October comparable store sales

October proved to be another mixed bag for US apparel retailers. While the majority reported comparable store sales gains thanks to an improving economy and strong consumer demand, others were impacted by warmer weather during the month.

According to first figures from research firm Retail Metrics, comparable store sales for the US retail sector as a whole grew 3.8% in October. 

A preliminary tally from the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC), was more optimistic with a 4.6% year-on-year increase. Excluding the impact of gasoline prices, sales grew to 6%.

Including Gap's 3% comparable store sales fall, which came in after the market closed yesterday (6 November), Retail Metrics said October's growth stood at 4%.

Although unseasonably warm temperatures were not helpful to apparel retailers, October comparable store sales were not as bad as feared, Retail Metrics president Ken Perkins said.

ICSC spokesperson Jesse Tron added: "An improving economy continues to be the main driver of stronger consumer demand compared with last year. While in the short term the lower gas prices may have reduced the overall rise in sales this month - the added boost in discretionary income for consumers will help propel discretionary retail categories during the upcoming holiday season."

Winners and losers
All but two of the apparel retailers who now report monthly comparable store sales reported gains in October.

Retail giant Gap Inc missed Retail Metrics' expectations for the sixth time this year. Its namesake and Banana Republic brands posted declines of 7% and 2% respectively, while Old Navy's comparable store sales were flat versus a 2% gain last year.

Nonetheless outgoing CEO Glenn Murphy noted: "While we were disappointed in our October sales results, particularly at Gap, we look forward to presenting our improved product collections for the holiday season across all our brands."

Although The Buckle also saw comparable store sales drop last month, it was the retailer's first decline since May.

L Brands and teen apparel chain Zumiez, meanwhile, were "modest standouts" in October, both reporting 3% comparable store sales growth with the latter beating Retail Metrics' expectations for a 2.6% increase.

In addition, Cato Corporation has lifted its third-quarter earnings guidance to $0.15-0.17 from its earlier expectations of between $0.08 and $0.13.

"October same-store sales were slightly below our current trend," chairman, president and CEO John Cato said. "We remain cautious in regard to the remainder of the year."

October sales overview
Action sportswear and footwear retailer Zumiez reported a 3.1% rise in comparable store sales in the four weeks to 1 November. The company, which operates 602 stores, saw net sales grow 11.7% to $51.7m from $46.3m in the same period last year.

Over at denim specialist The Buckle, October comparable store sales, for stores open at least one year, fell 4.4%. Net sales dropped 1.3% to $85.4m from $86.6m for the company which operates 461 stores.

Value-priced fashion retailer The Cato Corp said comparable store sales increased 2% in October. The owner of the Cato, Versona and It's Fashion brands said net sales were up 6% to $70.5m from $66.7m a year ago.

L Brands, whose chains include Victoria's Secret, Pink and La Senza, saw net sales reach $700m in the four weeks to 1 November, compared to $680.5m last year. Comparable store sales increased 3%.

For off-price fashion retailer Stein Mart, October comparable store sales climbed 1.4%. Net sales reached $97.7m, up 2.9% from $95m a year ago for the company, which operates more than 260 stores.

But Gap Inc reported a 3% fall in comparable store sales, hurt by declines at its namesake and Banana Republic brands. The San Francisco-based retailer, which operates more than 3,200 stores, said net sales were down 2.3% to $1.26bn from $1.29bn last year.