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Holiday Sales - Department Stores Largely Winners

LONDON, January 16, 2013 /PRNewswire/ --

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Many of the major players in the department stores industry posted improved year-over-year December sales figures, as an improving economy and lower unemployment levels helped to offset "fiscal cliff" fears. Discounts late in the month for Kohl's Corporation [ (1) ] (NYSE:KSS) were a concern however.

According to the National Retail Federation, December retail sales excluding restaurants, gas stations and automobiles improved by 2.1% when compared to the same period last year. Several stores also reported improved year-over-year same store sales, which bodes well for the industry moving forward. Lower prices at the pump and an improved housing market could also fuel growth in 2013.

December sales improved for many retailers including The TJX Companies Inc. [ (2) ] (NYSE: TJX). TJX Companies' sales for the month of December came in 10% higher to $3.6 billion as compared to last year's sales figure of $3.3 billion. The off-price retailer saw its comparable sales grow by 6% over a year ago on the back of superior customer traffic which in turn was possible as the company exposed a wider and better choice of branded products in its stores at value prices.

In the case of Kohl's sales fell short of estimates. Whilst the company's same-store sales were still 3.4% higher than a year back. Kohl's did not meet the company's sales projections, and the disappointing part was a large number of its sales were completed near the end of the holiday cycle, only when the retailer provided discounts on merchandise, thus narrowing its margin.

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