Same-store sales for November released today were up nearly across the board for the first time in months.
Big gains for Kohl's
Each end of the price spectrum continued to improve on previous months. Kohl's, which has struggled following its much-lauded release of Vera Wang's "Simply Vera" line, posted a stunning 10.2% gain. J.C. Penney's same-store sales were up 2.6%, though a disappointment given the retailer's strength over the past year. Target, which has not advertised as aggressively as competitors such as Wal-Mart, posted an increase of just 1%.
The cash register was also humming on the pricier end of the mall. Nordstrom's same-store sales were up 8.7%, while Sak's shot up a breathtaking 25.7%.
Department stores also shared in the fun. Macy's same-store sales jumped 13.4% and Dillard's was up 1%. Both stores have stumbled in recent months. Gap, which has posted consistent declines, was flat in November.
Scott Krugman, a spokesman for the National Retail Federation, called the November results mixed, adding that commerce data released next week will be more telling about the state of the retail industry. Same-store sales, he noted, do not take stores that have been open less than a year into account, and often don't include e-commerce.
Even so, "We are optimistic about the overall November numbers as the reports are coming in," he conceded.
The consumer wild card
Mr. Krugman noted that a strong November bodes well for December sales. And since last December's sales were soft, this year will have a low bar for comparison. Another wild card, he said, is the consumer's appetite for spending during the holidays.
"Never underestimate the consumer during the holiday season," he said. "A lot of people look at the logical factors, such as gas prices are high, so people won't spend. I'll challenge that and say they'll pull back in another area, but this is emotional spending."
The National Retail Federation has projected a 4% increase in sales for the 2007 holiday season.