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Cool September Sent Hordes of Shoppers to Stores for Autumn Gear APGraphic RETAILERS With

October 7, 1993

Cool September Sent Hordes of Shoppers to Stores for Autumn Gear APGraphic RETAILERS With BC-Retail Sales-Table

Undated (AP) _ The onset of fall-like weather in September sent hordes of shoppers to stores around the country and helped sales significantly at most of the nation’s big retailers.

Reports from mass merchants, discounters, department stores, specialty chains and other retailers Thursday confirmed that cool weather last month finally put people into a buying mood after the unusually hot summer left consumers languid and unwilling to think about autumn and winter needs.

Parents who put off shopping for children’s fall clothing and other back- to-school gear during the dog days this past summer, for instance, rushed out to the malls after Labor Day. Retail sales had been dismal in August because the buying that traditionally precedes the opening of the new school year failed to materialize as early as usual.

A gauge of industrywide performance prepared by the Salomon Brothers Inc. investment firm rose 5.6 percent last month from a year earlier, a big improvement from the 3.5 percent August increase. A year ago, the index rose 7.3 percent from the prior year.

Although low temperatures salvaged the back-to-school season for retailers, analysts who follow the industry don’t expect the improved trend to continue.

In fact, most industry observers think the peak holiday shopping period will be a time of conservative spending for consumers who are worried about how the Clinton Administration’s plans will affect their taxes and medical bills.

With the likelihood of a lean Christmas, retail executives are planning accordingly, analysts said. Inventories are expected to be kept low so stores won’t have too much leftover merchandise to unload at marked-down prices after the holidays.

″There has not, in our opinion, been any major change in consumers’ buying habits,″ said Thomas Filandro of Gruntal Financial Corp. ″The Christmas season at this point in time is really up in the air.″

Daniel Barry of Merrill Lynch & Co. noted that retailers enjoyed robust business last Christmas so this year’s sales could look mediocre by comparison. A look at last month’s results shows sales at the nation’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., rose 9 percent from September 1992 for stores open a year or longer. Total business for Wal-Mart grew 25 percent.

Sales from stores open at least a year, also known as same-store sales, are considered the best guide to a retailer’s strength. They exclude the results of newer stores, where sales are typically inflated by the fanfare associated with grand openings. Same-store sales also exclude results from stores closed during the past 12 months.

Kmart Corp., the second-biggest U.S. retailer, reported same-store sales rose 3.9 percent, while overall sales rose 11.8 percent.

Sears, Roebuck and Co. said same-store sales rose 10.3 percent and overall sales rose 8.3 percent.

Dayton Hudson Corp. said same-store sales rose 2.1 percent while overall business grew 7.4 percent. Dayton, which operates department stores as well as discounters, said a disappointing performance by its Mervyn’s chain has forced it to take steps that will eat into third-quarter earnings. The company’s stock sank on the news.

Despite the sales rebound in September, retail stocks sagged on Wall Street. The stocks had risen recently in anticipation of the strong September results so investors sold Thursday to collect profits.

Several store executives attributed their results to cooler temperatures and noted that consequently outerwear was a particularly strong category.

J.C. Penney, for example, said solid gains in men’s, women’s and children’s clothing reflected higher sales of coats, jackets and the like. Sales at its flagship stores rose 4.6 percent, while overall sales, including its drug stores and catalog business, rose 7 percent.

May Department Stores Co. reported a 6.8 percent same-store sales gain and a 9.3 percent overall increase.

Apparel retailer Limited Inc. reported same-store sales rose 4 percent while overall business expanded 3 percent. Gap Inc. said same-store sales edged up 2 percent, while overall sales rose 11 percent.

These results are narrower than the monthly retail sales report from the government, which includes sales from supermarkets, restaurants and car dealers. Those figures will be released Oct. 14.

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