Updated from 9:35 a.m. EST
Retailers reported mixed November sales Thursday, with disappointing results from
overshadowing strong gains at other big chains ahead of the holiday season.
According to Ken Perkins, president of research firm Retail Metrics, 56% of retailers missed expectations for the month, while 44% of them beat forecasts.
"It certainly casts a little more doubt about how robust the December shopping season is going to be," he says.
Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, confirmed that same-store sales for November slipped 0.1%, missing Wall Street's forecast of flat growth. The company said its home and apparel business has been challenging and predicted this trend would continue throughout the fourth quarter.
For the key December holiday period, Wal-Mart expects same-store sales, or sales at stores open at least a year, to be flat to up 1%.
"Factors impacting our December comparable-store sales estimate include the impact of the hurricanes from last year and continued challenges in our apparel and home business," said Chief Financial Officer Tom Schoewe in a statement. "We expect to see improvements in our apparel and home categories by spring."
"That number for December is not a good thing at all," Perkins says. "It basically means a flat holiday, which is not very encouraging for them or their investors."
Perkins noted that Wal-Mart's negative presence was a big drag on the overall same-store sales figures for the month.
Excluding Wal-Mart, same-store sales were up an average 4.2% of the 49 stores that reported Thursday, Perkins says. If Wal-Mart's results are included, that figure is halved to 2.1%.
Wal-Mart's biggest rival,
, met expectations with a 5.9% rise in November same-store sales. Total sales climbed 12% to $5.12 billion from $4.58 billion.
For December, Target's plan calls for a 3.5% to 5.5% rise in same-store sales.
In department store retailing,
Federated Department Stores
had a strong month and gave a cheery outlook for the holiday period. The owner of Macy's and Bloomingdale's said November same-store sales rose 8.5%, easily surpassing analysts' forecast of 4.8%. Federated had forecast a same-store sales increase of 3% to 5% in November.
Federated boosted its same-store sales guidance for December to an increase of 5% to 8%, compared with previous guidance for an increase of 3% to 5%. Same-store sales for the fourth quarter as a whole are expected to increase by 5% to 7%.
J. C. Penney
, one of retail's strongest performers of late, said same-store sales increased only 1.4%, below Wall Street's forecast of a 3.7% increase. Total November sales came to $1.9 billion, up from $1.86 billion a year ago.
For December, J.C. Penney said same-store sales are expected to increase in the low-single-digits, compared with last year's December period same-store department store increased of 2.2%. The company reaffirmed its previous forecast for earnings of $1.94 a share for the fourth quarter.
said November same-store sales increased 5.4%, in line with Wall Street's estimates. The upscale department store company said sales increased 6.1% to $749.4 million.
Another upscale department store,
, said same-store sales increased 7.2%, beating Wall Street's estimate of 7%. Total sales decreased 49.3% to $275.2 million.
continued to have trouble, posting an 8% drop in same-store sales. The decline was steeper than analysts' forecast for a 5.4% drop. Total sales fell 2% to $1.40 billion.
Same-store sales tumbled 7% at Gap's namesake chain and 10% at Old Navy. Banana Republic comps fell 1%.
The company said markdowns at Gap and Old Navy drove merchandise margins down, and Gap warned that it expects added margin pressure in December.
Women's clothing seller
reported a same-store sales decline of 4.3%, worse than analysts' expectation for a 2.3% drop. Sales climbed to $186.4 million from $182.5 million last year.
The company saw particular weakness at its lower-priced LOFT division, where comps fell 7.7%. Same-store sales at Ann Taylor stores fell 3.4%. The company blamed unusually warm weather for weak sales of sweaters and outerwear.
Ann Taylor said trends picked up in the latter part of the month and it had a strong performance for Black Friday. The retailer said new merchandise arriving at stores this week should help build momentum in the holiday season.
Another specialty apparel laggard was
. Same-store sales climbed 5.8% but missed Wall Street's estimate for 7.9% growth. Shares recently were down nearly 10%.
Two warehouse retailers missed expectations.
said November same-store sales rose 5%, coming below Wall Street's forecast of 5.7%. November net sales increased 9% to $4.84 billion.
BJ's Wholesale Club's
increased 0.6% for November, missing Wall Street's target of 1.2%. The company said that the same-store sales figure included a negative impact from gasoline sales of 1.3% and that, excluding gasoline, the company would have posted a same-store sales rise of 1.9%. Total sales for November increased 4.9% to $652.5 million.
In the teen space, Wall Street darling
Abercrombie & Fitch
reported an unexpected 3% drop in same-store sales. Analysts expected a 3% rise.
Other teen chains had reported their results Wednesday.
American Eagle Outfitters
( AEOS) posted a 14% surge in same-store sales, just shy of Wall Street's projection of 14.8%. Struggling
( HOTT), meanwhile, reported a 4.3% same-store sales decline, besting analysts' expectation for a 6.8% drop. At
, November comps rose 1%.