Retailers Had Big October

Penney, Abercrombie, Chico's and Costco all post solid results.
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Updated from 9:14 a.m. EST

Consumers defied the skeptics on Wall Street in October, flocking back to malls and discount outlets after a storm-drenched September.

Despite reports of flagging consumer confidence, retailers reported an overall same-store sales increase of 4.4%, according to an aggregate index comprising results from over 70 national chains reported by Retail Metrics LLC. The firm had been projecting a gain of 3.9%.

"The glass appears to be half full heading into the holiday season compared to the half-empty outlook at the beginning of September," said Retail Metrics' president, Ken Perkins. "Clearly, falling gas prices coupled with the late arrival of cooler weather in the last two weeks of October gave a boost to consumer spending. Despite numerous reports on the consumer's demise, including my own sense, the consumer plowed through significant hurdles to drive the strongest monthly comp growth since June."

Perkins said 63% of the retailers in his index beat expectations, well above the historical average of 55%, while just 25% disappointed, below the usual 42%.

Among those issuing impressive reports were

J.C. Penney

(JCP) - Get Report

,

Costco

(COST) - Get Report

and

Chico's

(CHS) - Get Report

, all of which came in ahead of estimates.

Teen specialists

Urban Outfitters

(URBN) - Get Report

and

Pacific Sunwear

(PSUN)

both raised quarterly guidance, while

Abercrombie & Fitch

(ANF) - Get Report

had a blowout month.

The biggest store,

Wal-Mart

(WMT) - Get Report

, came through as promised with a 4.3% rise in October same-store sales. The company, which previewed the results last weekend, posted overall sales of $23.26 billion, up 10.5% from a year ago, and said November comparable-store sales should rise 3% to 5% from a year ago.

Wal-Mart's chief competitor,

Target

(TGT) - Get Report

, said its comps rose 5.7%, beating forecasts. Previously, Target reported its same-store sales were tracking at the high-end of its projected range of 3% to 5%.

J.C. Penney reported a 2.4% rise in October comps, about a percentage point better than forecast, citing strong results in children's clothes, women's accessories and family shoes. Penney forecast November growth in the low single-digits and raised third-quarter earnings guidance by 8 cents to 92 cents a share.

Costco's same-store sales rose 10% from a year ago, in part because of a factor that many analysts expected to limit shopping this autumn: high gasoline prices. Stripping gasoline sales out, Costco's comps would've risen by 8%, which is still ahead of estimates.

Women's clothier Chico's reported a 17.9% rise in October comps, roughly doubling estimates. Overall sales rose 31.8% from a year ago to $114 million.

Urban Outfitters didn't break out October same-store sales but said they rose 13% in the third quarter. Overall sales were $288.8 million in the three months to Oct. 31, about $9 million ahead of estimates.

Pacific Sunwear posted a same-store sales gain of 7.9% in October, about twice the expected gain, reflecting an 8.8% rise at its flagship PacSun line and a 2.7% gain at d.e.m.o. The company also bumped up earnings guidance for the third quarter to 53 cents to 54 cents a share from 51 cents a share.

Abercrombie & Fitch posted a 31% rise in comps and a 41% increase in overall sales to $189.2 million. Analysts were expecting comps growth of about 15%.

Gap

(GPS) - Get Report

remained a laggard, reporting a 5% decline in comps for the month, although analysts were expecting a slightly larger drop. The company put third-quarter earnings at 23 cent or 24 cents a share, roughly in line with estimates.

Kohl's

(KSS) - Get Report

beat estimates with a 6.2% jump, and the chain backed its third-quarter earnings forecast.

Upscale women's clothier

Ann Taylor

(ANN)

posted an unexpected gain, with comps up 1.2%.

Luxury retailer

Neiman Marcus

recorded a healthy 7% gain, while

Saks

(SKS)

said its comps rose 4.6%.

At the low-end,

Dollar General

(DG) - Get Report

fell short of estimates with a comps increase of 0.2% for the month.