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Retail Chains Report Sales of Yugioh Cards By Chris Reidy, Globe Staff 10/11/2002

Retail Chains Report Sales of Yugioh Cards
By Chris Reidy, Globe Staff
10/11/2002
Item# retchainreps

Product Description

Retail chains report dismal sales in Sept.

Analysts fear disappointing holiday season as consumers trim spending

By Chris Reidy, Globe Staff, 10/11/2002

n a bad sign for the holiday retail season and the struggling economy, major chain stores yesterday reported disappointing sales for September as consumers cut back on spending amid fears of war in Iraq, more layoffs, and a volatile stock market.

A survey of chains done by Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi Ltd. found that average September sales at stores open at least one year grew by an ''anemic 1.5 percent'' compared to September 2001.

One retail measure of performance that Wall Street scrutinizes is same-store sales - sales at stores open at least a year. Until lately, discount chains such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Target Corp. were reporting solid monthly same-store sales and stealing business from department stores as consumers sought value and convenience.

Yet now even Wal-Mart isn't quite measuring up. And Kohl's Corp., long a darling of the retail industry, had a rare off month. In September, Wal-Mart's same-store sales rose 3.3 percent. Same-store sales at Target fell 0.8 percent and 3.2 percent at Kohl's.

Full-price department stores, which have generally not performed as well as the discount chains, were hit even harder. May Department Stores Co., the parent of Filene's, saw same-store sales fall 6.2 percent, while sales at Sears, Roebuck & Co. declined 5.9 percent.

And Gap Inc., which has been struggling for more than two years, continued to slip. Its September same-store sales fell 2 percent, its 29th consecutive monthly sales drop.

Among the few bright spots, Limited Brands, which includes Victoria's Secret, Limited Stores, and Bath & Body Works, posted a 6 percent same-store gain, and Neiman Marcus Group rose 18.7 percent.

''The consumer clearly cut back in September,'' Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi vice president Michael P. Niemira wrote in a report yesterday, adding: ''From where we sit today, the 2002 Christmas holiday season is facing increased risk to repeat the dismal sales performance that characterized the last two holiday seasons.''

For nearly the last two years, solid consumer spending has helped keep the US economy afloat - consumer spending accounts for about two-thirds of domestic economic activity.

Consumers have plenty to be worried about, and so do retailers. Besides the depressing effects of layoffs, Iraq, and a bear market, unseasonably warm weather in September left few consumers in the mood to buy fall clothing.

Take those concerns; add them to a late Thanksgiving, which means a later start for the holiday shopping season. Then take into account a slowdown of goods that resulted from a West Coast port strike, and a perfect storm could be brewing for a glum holiday retail season.

Of course, what's bad for merchants can be good for consumers. Faced with soft sales, retailers often cut prices, meaning that bargains can abound for holiday shoppers.

''The fourth quarter does not look good,'' added Shopping Center World editor Ben Johnson.

What's hurting consumer confidence is the recent ''string of bad news,'' said Cap Gemini Ernst & Young retail consultant Stephen M. Deedy. What retailers need, he said, is ''a string of good news from the stock market and the Middle East.''

Amid this bad-news cycle, even normally strong retail performers showed some weakness. Among several companies that cut profit outlooks yesterday were BJ's Wholesale Club Inc. of Natick, Talbots Inc. of Hingham, and TJX Cos. of Framingham.

Not long ago, retailers were expecting a decent month. After all, their performance would be measured against September 2001. In the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks many consumers bought only essentials, so easy year-to-year comparisons were expected.

But except for a few luxury retailers that showed gains, this year's September numbers were not pretty.

''It was a dismal performance that reflects a cautious, shell-shocked consumer,'' said Kurt Barnard, president of Barnard's Retail Trend Report.

While consumers have been more ''conservative'' in their spending of late, they haven't cut back to the point where the economy is in imminent danger of slipping into a double-dip recession, said Wayne Ayers, chief economist of FleetBoston Financial Corp.

For September, BJ's reported a same-store sales gain of 0.5 percent. Pretax costs related to closing some underperforming stores will lower third-quarter earnings by about 20 cents a share. BJ's now expects to earn 16 to 18 cents a share for the third quarter, down from its previous estimate of 42 cents to 44 cents. ''The changes in earnings guidance do not signal a dramatic change in BJ's business,'' said a company spokeswoman. ''The revision for the third quarter includes a number of unusual expenses.''

BJ's expects to earn 80 to 82 cents a share for the fourth quarter, down from its previous estimate of 88 to 90 cents. BJ's also revised its same-store sales outlook from a 3 percent increase to a flat to 1 percent increase for the rest of the year.

Talbots said same-store sales for September fell 6.1 percent, below its expectations, and reduced its earnings forecast for the second half of the year. Third-quarter profit is now expected to be 59 to 61 cents a share, above last year's 58 cents but below Thomson First Call's estimate of 70 cents. Talbots estimated that fourth-quarter profits will be 48 cents to 53 cents a share, vs. 53 cents for the year-ago period.

Talbots chairman and chief executive Arnold B. Zetcher said: ''Our sales trends were tracking very close to plan as we entered the month; however, they declined significantly following Labor Day. ... We believe the second half of the year will remain considerably uncertain.'' On the New York Stock Exchange, shares fell $5.95 to $22.90.

TJX Cos., operator of such chains as T.J. Maxx and Marshalls, said September same-store sales fell 1 percent in part because warm weather slowed apparel sales in many parts of the country.

''Due to the sales shortfall in September, we are lowering our earnings per share estimate for the third quarter to a range of 28 cents to 30 cents vs. the 27 cents per share earned from continuing operations last year,'' said chief executive Edmond J. English.

As for the 10-day shutdown of West Coast ports, Toy Wishes magazine co-publisher Jim Silver does not expect the strike to have a big impact on the toy industry. Most retailers already have most of their holiday toys in their stores or in their warehouses, he said.

For the last four years, Toy Wishes has predicted the holiday's ''hot dozen'' toys. This year's picks include a Barbie dressed as Rapunzel, a Harry Potter-themed Lego set, the Quantum Pad Learning System, a Tony Hawk Pro Skater video game, and a Yu-Gi-Oh! trading card game meant for kids who have graduated from Pokemon.

Those who fear glum holiday sales may take some hope from last year. A last-minute surge lifted the 2001 holidays a bit above not-very-optimistic expectations.







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