December Retail Sales: A Smaller Bag (COST, WTSLA, LTD, TGT, BKE, SMRT, M, GPS)


Retailers are announcing December same-store sales figures today and, to tell the truth, expectations are pretty low. Research firm Retail Metrics projects an overall gain of just 1.9% year-over-year, sharply lower than the 3.5% gain in November.

The month of December was a five-week month for most retailers.

Here's a rundown:

Costco Wholesale Corp. (NASDAQ: COST) reported yesterday that same-store sales for December rose 9% compared with December 2011. Analysts were expecting a rise of 6.5%. Not including gasoline sales or foreign exchange effects, Costco sales rose 8% year-over-year in December.

The Wet Seal Inc. (NASDAQ: WTSLA) reported same-store sales for the four weeks fell 9.7%, well below the 5.4% drop in November. The company said that the decline was due to "lower than expected transactions throughout the month." That'll do it.

Limited Brands Inc. (NYSE: LTD) said same-store sales for the five weeks ended December 29 rose 3%, compared with December 2011 and a consensus estimate for a rise of 4.5%.

Target Corp. (NYSE: TGT) posted same-store sales for December 2012 that were "essentially flat" with sales in December 2011. Retail Metrics had expected growth of 3%. The company blamed "softness" in the first three weeks of the month for the disappointing sales.

The Buckle Inc. (NYSE: BKE) reported same-store sales for December rose 1% compared with the same month a year ago. The Retail Metrics estimate called for a gain of 0.3%. Same-store sales year-to-date are up 2.4%.

Stein Mart Inc. (NASDAQ: SMRT) reported December same-store sales up 5.9% year-over-year, and total sales up 6.4%. The company's interim CEO said that it has been "more than seven years since we have experienced [same-store sales] increases like this," referring to the chain's sixth consecutive month of sales growth. Retail Metrics estimated a same-store sales increase of 2.7% for Stein Mart.

Macy's Inc. (NYSE: M) reported December same-store sales jumped by 4.1%, compared with a Retail Metrics estimate calling for an increase of 4.8%. The company's CEO said that lingering effects of Hurricane Sandy and "uncertain economic news" posed "significant headwinds" in the month.

Gap Inc. (NYSE: GPS) reported that same-store sales rose 5% for the five weeks ended December 29. The Retail Metrics estimate called for a gain of 3.5%. Year to date, Gap's sales are up 4% over 2011. Gap announced last night that it was acquiring women's fashion boutique Intermix Inc. for $130 million, giving the company an entry into the luxury retail market.

Gap's shares are up 5.2% at $33.00 in premarket trading this morning, in a 52-week range of $17.75 to $37.85.

Wet Seal's shares are inactive in the premarket today, having closed last night at $2.79 in a 52-week range of $2.42 to $3.73.

Target's shares are up 2.4% this morning, at $60.22 in a 52-week range of $47.25 to $65.80.

Limited's shares are down 4%, at $45.50 in a 52-week range of $38.45 to $52.50.

Costco shares are flat in premarket trading, at $101.45 in a 52-week range of $78.81 to $105.97.

Macy's shares are down 0.8% this morning at $38.00, in a 52-week range of $32.288 to $42.17.

Stein Mart's shares are inactive, having closed at $7.64 last night, in a 52-week range of $6.02 to $9.34.

Paul Ausick

Filed under: 24/7 Wall St. Wire, Economy, Retail Tagged: BKE, COST, GPS, LTD, M, SMRT, TGT, WTSLA