September Retail Sales Mixed

Frances McDormand, "North Country";
WARNER BROTHERS
Retail sales in September registered mixed results, with some stores faring especially well and others doing poorly.

Among the big department stores, Kmart (KM) reported Thursday that September same-store sales climbed 5.6 percent; Dayton Hudson (DH) saw a 5.3 percent; and May Department Stores (MAY) gained 4.3 percent.

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Kmart (KM)
The leader of the pack, Wal-Mart (WMT), also recorded stellar results. Two days earlier, it reported a same-store sales increase of 9.5 percent.

Other retail giants ended up on the wrong side of the tracks in September. Sears (S) said same-store sales dipped 1.7 percent; Consolidated Stores (CNS) reported a 5.8 percent decline. Sears blamed warmer than normal weather and the effects of Hurricane Georges on its East Coast stores.

Federated Department Stores (FD) straddled the line, recording a 0.7 percent decline in September same-store sales. It also said hurricane Georges hurt sales.

Overall, analysts were expecting about a 4.5 to 5.0 percent same-store gain for the month. Economists are scrutinizing retail sales, among other data, for clues to whether the global economic turmoil and decline in the stock market is prompting consumers to pull back on spending. Retail spending accounts for two-thirds of U.S. economic activity.

Among second-tier retailers, The Gap (GPS) once again lead the charge. Same-stores sales surged 14 percent in September. AnnTaylor (ANN), a maker of upscale women's clothes, also performed well, with sales up 8.5 percent. Ames Deparment Stores (AMES) rose 6.7 percent. And Family Dollar (FDO) increased 12.3 percent.

On the downside, Spiegel's Eddie Bauer (SPGLA) unit continued to stumble, as same-store sales dropped 12 percent. Executives, however, claim that business improved as the month progressed and that they are hopeful about the upcoming holiday season.

Filene's Basement (BSMT) sales' also ended up in the cellar, off 6 percent from the year-ago period. J.C. Penny (JCP) saw sales slip 6.6 percent. And Saks' (SKS) sales dipped 1 percent in September.

Mixed results were also the order of the day among smaler botique retailers.

Chico's FAS (CHCS) saw September same-store sales soar 30.7 perdent and Claire's (CLE) rose 10 percent, for example.

Yet Charming Shoppes (CHRS) declined 2 percent and Natural Wonders, a seller of nature and science products, (NATW) sank 5.9 percent compared to a year earlier.

By Jeffry Bartash, CBS MarketWatch