NEW YORK - The outlook for the holiday season brightened Thursday as many of the nation's retailers reported an improvement in sales in October. Discounters, however, had another month of lackluster results as their customers cut back spending again.
Many mall-based apparel stores, including Limited Brands, Abercrombie & Fitch Inc. and Gap Inc., saw a rebound in spending, helped by cooler weather. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Big Lots Inc. and ShopKo Stores Inc. were among the merchants who extended a sluggish streak that began in June.
"There was definitely more broad-based growth across the apparel group. But the low-end consumer continues to be hurt on two fronts - jobs and wage growth and higher energy prices," said Ken Perkins, an analyst at RetailMetrics LLC, a research firm in Cambridge, Mass. "This is a little more encouraging as we head into the holiday season, though it is not a harbinger for a stellar shopping season."
John Morris, a senior retail analyst at Harris Nesbitt, noted that "there was pent-up demand for apparel coming at a time when weather was more seasonable," but he warned that the question remains whether that can be sustained during the holiday season.
With current uncertainty about jobs and energy bills, many store owners are uneasy about the holidays, especially after the Conference Board reported last week that consumer confidence fell to a seven-month low in October.
These Augusta-area retailers reported same-store sales growth during the four weeks ending Oct. 29:
• Wal-Mart Stores Inc.: 2.8 percent
• Target Corp.: 6 percent
• Sears, Roebuck and Co.: 1.9 percent (domestic stores only)
• J.C. Penney Co. Inc.: 2.1 percent (excluding catalog, drug stores)
• Gap Inc.: 3 percent
• TJX Cos. (TJ Maxx): 7 percent
• Federated Department Stores Inc. (Rich's): 4 percent
• Limited Brands Inc. (Victoria's Secret, Bath & Body Works): 14 percent
- Associated Press