US November comps impress, Old Navy stars, figures encouraging for December – ICSC

US apparel retailers Thursday reported impressively higher same-store sales for November as early promotions and an improving economy kept hopes for a strong Holiday trading period very much alive.

Of the dwindling number of retailers still presenting monthly comp figures, chains posted an overall same-store sales gain of 4.9% for November, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC).

“Sales showed a steady industry-wide performance for the month, with apparel showing a strong uptick compared to October,” said ICSC spokesman Jesse Tron. “It’s an encouraging reading for the Holiday season and means we should continue to expect significant improvement over the 2013 season,” he added.

Thomson Reuters, meanwhile, said the tally for the retailers it follows gave a collective comps gain of 7.1%, way ahead of the 5% increase it had expected.

Gap Inc shares rose 3.3% after hours Thursday after the retail giant’s November same-store sales figures topped analysts’ estimates.

The retail giant posted an analysts’ beating 6% jump in November comps, boosted by its Old Navy brand which excelled with an 18% same-store sales jump compared to a more modest 3% rise a year ago. Gap brand, however, was down 4% for the month against a 2% rise a year ago, and Banana Republic saw a 2% increase following a 1% dip last time.

Analysts had been expecting an overall 1.4% comp decline, with Old Navy up just 1.3%, Banana Republic up 0.3% and Gap brand down 4.2%.

“Old Navy delivered standout performance in November, with customers responding positively to the brand’s Holiday assortment and marketing,” said CEO Glenn Murphy. “With much of the Holiday season still ahead, we remain focused on strong execution across all of our brands.”

L Brands, the operator of Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works chains, said comps for November increased 8% compared to a 5% decline a year ago. That easily topped analysts’ estimates for a 4.6% comps increase. Total net sales for the month grew 9% to $1.08bn. Comps at Victoria’s Secret rose 4% while Bath & Body Works comps jumped 11%.

Stein Mart reported a 4.8% comps growth for November with total monthly sales up 6.7% to $127.9m. Geographically, Texas and Florida recorded the strongest sales last month, while the Northeast, Midwest and West performed lower than expected.

Costco Wholesale Corp reported a 9% comps gain, excluding fuel sales, last month. Costco noted that its softline businesses were up in the mid- to high-single digits in November, with strong gains in apparel, domestic goods and home furnishings.

Teen apparel retailer The Buckle saw its comp sales for the month dip 1% although net sales rose 2.7% t to $104m.

Meanwhile Zumiez, which reported November sales along with Q3 earnings that rose more than expected, delivered a 6.3% comps gain for November, outstripping the 2.7% rise analysts had expected.

Value-priced Cato Corp reported its November grew 7% as total sales increased 10% to $73.8m. CEO John Cato said, its November comps came in above expectations the retailer will “remain cautious for the rest of the holiday shopping season and fourth quarter.”

Tandy Leather Factory reported its total sales last month rose 11% to $8.4m with its 76 established stores seeing a 14% comps hike. For the year-to-date period, sales climbed 5% to $74.8m.

Looking ahead to December, comp sales are expected to continue their strong pace, increasing 4-4.5%, above the 3.4% increase reported a year ago, the ICSC predicted.

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