Bargain-Hunters Put a Dent in November Retail Sales

Shoppers Take Advantage Of Black Friday Deals
Joshua Lott/Getty Images
By Phil Wahba

NEW YORK -- Several major U.S. retailers posted disappointing sales for November after cautious shoppers pinched their pennies at the start of a shorter holiday season.

Some of the companies that reported sales gains ramped up bargains to bring in shoppers who appeared hesitant to splurge.

Costco Wholesale (COST) said Thursday that sales at stores open at least a year rose 2 percent, below the 3.3 percent increase analysts were looking for, according to Thomson Reuters. The warehouse club chain said consumer electronics sales fell.

Same-store sales at L Brands (LTD), owner of the Victoria's Secret lingerie chain, also came in below expectations. Its drop of 5.5 percent was far deeper than the 1.1 percent decline analysts were projecting.

Wall Street analysts are expecting 11 top retailers to report a 2.7 percent increase in same-store sales for November, according to Thomson Reuters. Excluding drugstore operators, which get two-thirds of revenue from prescriptions, that gain is estimated at 2.3 percent.

Gap (GPS) will report its November sales after U.S. markets close.

Retailers have been contending with low consumer confidence and the need to prod shoppers with bargains this holiday season, which has six fewer days because of a late Thanksgiving.

The National Retail Federation on Sunday said U.S. shoppers had spent 2.9 percent less this year over the Thanksgiving weekend, the kickoff to the holiday season.

The Conference Board, an industry group, said last week that U.S. consumer confidence fell in November after a sharp drop in October as Americans worried about their future jobs and earnings prospects.

Earlier this week, %VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%J.C. Penney (JCP) reported a 10.1 percent comparable sales increase, partially reversing a disastrous decline in 2012, but the department store chain had to resort to aggressive bargains. The "environment will remain as competitive" through the holiday season, Chief Executive Officer Myron Ullman said.

In a sign of how hard retailers are pushing for sales this holiday season, rival Kohl's (KSS) said Thursday that its stores would be open around the clock between Dec. 20 and Christmas Eve.

Walgreen (WAG) said a "meaningful" increase in promotions had brought in more shoppers, helping the drugstore chain post a 1.9 percent increase in comparable sales of general merchandise.

Dollar General (DG) on Thursday said its same-store sales last quarter rose 4.4 percent, reflecting how much customers are looking to save money.

Stein Mart (SMRT), an off-price chain that sells clothes and home goods at deep discounts, was one of the few retailers to report stronger-than-expected sales for November.

Fred's (FRED), a general merchandise chain, said comparable sales were unchanged, below expectations.

Rite Aid (RAD) said comparable sales of general merchandise at its drugstores rose only 0.4 percent.

Sales were also flat at Cato (CATO), a chain of low-priced clothing. "We continue to expect that the remainder of the holiday shopping season and fourth quarter will be difficult," said CEO John Cato.

Teen retailer The Buckle (BKE) reported a 0.6 percent decline in same-store sales.

On Wednesday, Aeropostale (ARO) forecast a much bigger-than-expected loss for the holiday quarter and said it expected the "heavily promotional environment in the teen retail sector to continue."

Pop Quiz: Black Friday
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Bargain-Hunters Put a Dent in November Retail Sales

A. Guns
B. Knives
C. Pepper spray bomb
D. Brass knuckles

In 2010, a Florida man was arrested while waiting in line for Walmart to open its doors. Upon investigation, police discovered that he was attempting to bring a handgun, two knives, a pepper spray grenade and illegal pharmaceuticals into the store. He was not, however, packing a set of brass knuckles.

A. New York
B. Minneapolis
C. Philadelphia
D. Los Angeles

By the early 1960's, police officers in the City of Brotherly Love had begun referring to the day after Thanksgiving as Black Friday, in honor of the heavy foot and automobile traffic that the sales brought.

A. $61.75 billion
B. $52.5 billion
C. $45.3 billion
D. $37.9 billion

According to the National Retail Federation, Black Friday 2011's haul -- $52.4 billion -- was a record for the holiday.

A. Death by trampling
B. Death by shooting
C. A miscarriage
D. Full paralysis due to dragging

While there is no record of any Black Friday shoppers suffering from full paralysis, the holiday has had a stunning level of bizarre and brutal injuries associated with its sales. 2008 was an especially bad year: In Palm Desert, Calif., two men in a Toys R Us shot each other. On the opposite coast, a Walmart worker in Nassau County, N.Y., was trampled to death and another shopper suffered a miscarriage.

A. 4 a.m
B. 1 a.m.
C. Midnight
D. 8 p.m. Thursday

For the last few years, retailers have been sliding up the start times for their Black Friday sales. This year, DailyFinance's Matt Brownell reports, some Walmart and Sears stores are starting their big sales at 8 p.m on Thanksgiving Day.

A. It's the darkest day for retail workers
B. It's the first big late-night shopping day of the year
C. It's the date on which retailers begin to profit
D. In Southern cities during segregation, it was the day set aside for African-American shoppers.

As early as the 1980s, a rumor began to spread that Black Friday was so named because it was the day that most retailers began to see a yearly profit -- or "get into the black." (That rumor, it should be noted, was apparently started by retailers and advertisers.)

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