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September Sales: Ugly As Sin

The News: Everybody figured September retail sales would be awful, and everybody was right. JC Penney CEO Myron Ullman says shoppers are saving for the holidays. Ever the optimist, Mike.

Folding MoneyThe Winners: Discounters who sell food. B.J.'s Wholesale Club's September same-store sales, net of fuel, rose 5.6 percent, but the store noted that general merchandise categories such as televisions and toys dropped. Wal-Mart sales were up 2.4 percent, while Costco's rose 6 percent, also net of fuel. Target's still struggling, with same-store sales off 3 percent and persistent rumors that its credit card portfolio is more toxic than feared.

The Losers: Everybody else. "It was even worse than my worst fears," Charles Grom, an analyst with J.P. Morgan Securities, told the Wall Street Journal. Dillard's department stores claimed that hurricanes shaved 3 points off its sales numbers; same-store sales for the Little Rock-based chain dropped 12 percent. Wal-Mart and Neiman Marcus also noted that Hurricanes Gustav, Hanna and Ike affected their results.

The Takeaway: Retail analyst Burt Flickinger of Strategic Resource Group told the Journal he predicts 1,000 to 1,500 stores will close in January and February.

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