Apparel Retailers Mostly Report Higher December Sales

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A sampling of U.S. apparel retailers on Thursday mostly reported higher sales results at established stores for the month of December. Shoppers finally spent money on buying winter apparel towards the end of December after the late arrival of cooler weather, boosting the holiday sales figures of apparel retailers. Unseasonably warm weather earlier in the month had delayed purchases of winter apparel.

Holiday sales are expected to constitute nearly one fifth of the retail industry's annual sales of US$ 3.2 trillion. The National Retail Federation sees a sales increase of 3.7% this holiday season, compared to the 4.1% growth reported last year. Sales at established stores or a comparable-store sale is a key retail industry performance metric to gauge activity at store locations that have been open for at least a year.

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L Brands, Inc. the operator of Victoria's Secret and Bath & Body Works chains, said its December comparable store sales increased 8%, reflecting strength in both its brand stores. The company recorded comparable store sales increase of 4% in the same period last year. Net sales for the month were US$ 2.42 billion, up 9% from US$ 2.21 billion last year. The company said it delivered its best December ever.

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Stein Mart, Inc. reported a 1.8% increase in comparable store sales for the month of December, compared to a 5.8% increase in the year-ago period. Total monthly sales grew 4.7% to US$ 198.3 million from US$ 189.5 million in the prior-year month. Stein Mart noted that geographically, sales were relatively consistent across regions.

Value-priced fashion apparel retailer Cato Corp. reported that December same-store sales rose 6%, while total sales rose 9% from last year to US$ 118.5 million. The company noted that December same-store sales results were above its expectations and original guidance.

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Bucking the trend, teen apparel retailer Buckle, Inc. said that comparable store net sales for December declined 5.4% from the year-ago period. Net sales decreased 4.5% to US$ 182.1 million from last year's US$ 190.6 million.

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