Retail Round-Up: Back-to-School Creates Winners & Losers (COST, TGT, M,SKS, JWN, JCP, KSS, GPS, WTSLA, BKE, ZUMZ, XRT, RTH)

Retail sales in August put up solid gains that were slowed somewhat by the effects of Hurricane Irene along the eastern seaboard. Among the stores reporting sales numbers today are Costco Wholesale Corp. (NASDAQ: COST), Target Corp. (NYSE: TGT), Macy’s Inc. (NYSE: M), Saks Inc. (NYSE: SKS), Nordstrom, Inc. (NYSE: JWN), J.C. Penney Co. Inc. (NYSE: JCP), Kohl’s Corp. (NYSE: KSS), Gap Inc. (NYSE: GPS), The Wet Seal Inc. (NASDAQ: WTSLA), The Buckle Inc. (NYSE: BKE), and Zumiez Inc. (NASDAQ: ZUMZ).

Costco led the pack, reporting an August same-store sales gain of 11%, including sales in its joint venture in Mexico. Analysts had been expecting a gain of 9.3%. Excluding gasoline sales and the effects of currency exchanges, sales rose 7% in August. Costco also announced that its CEO would step down effective January 1st and be replaced by the company’s current president and COO.

Target’s same-store sales rose 4.1% in August, beating a consensus estimate of 3.5%. The company said that back-to-school and back-to-college sales were in line with expectations. Total sales rose 5.4% in the month.

Macy’s posted a year-over-year gain in August of 5%, beating expectations of a 4.5% increase. The company also noted that it would have added an additional 1.5% in sales if not for store closings and lower customer traffic due to the hurricane.

Saks posted a gain of 6.1% in same-store sales, lower than an expected rise of 7%. Like Macy’s, the company said the effects of Hurricane Irene lowered sales by 1.5%.

Nordstrom’s same-store sales rose 6.7% compared with the same period last year. Analysts were expecting a gain of 4.8%.

J.C. Penney reported a -1.9% drop in same-store sales in August and a total sales drop of -4.5%. Penney’s also blamed Hurricane Irene for poor sales in the last week of August.

Kohl’s also reported a same-store sales drop of -1.9% for the month. Analysts were expecting an increase of 1.6%. The company said that customer traffic was lower in August. It’s counting on new Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony brands for a pick-up for the rest of this year. Perhaps the company missed the news of the couple’s pending split.

Gap stores reported same-store sales down by -6% in August, worse even than expectations of a -3.8% drop. Deep discounts and higher production costs have been plaguing the company.

The Wet Seal posted an same-stores sales increase of 5.5%, higher than the consensus expectation of 4.2%. The company also noted higher margins on its back-to-school offerings.

The Buckle, another teen-oriented retailer, posted a jump of 8.3% in same-store sales in the month of August. Analysts were expecting a rise of 4.5%. Total sales for the company rose 11.9%.

Zumiez reported same-store sales growth of 4.3% for August, just missing expectations. But the company reported second quarter earnings at the same time the beat consensus estimates. Unfortunately the company lowered its forecast for the third quarter, and that is hurting the stock in the first hour of trading this morning.

Zumiez’s shares are off nearly -2%, at $18.15, in a 52-week range of $15.00-$33.13. Other losers this morning include Gap stores, off -3% at $16.01, in a 52-week range of $15.26-$23.73, and J.C. Penney, down about -1.5%, at $26.24 in a 52-week range of $20.20-$41.00.

Costco shares are up almost 2%, at $80.05 in a 52-week range of $57.65-$83.95. Macy’s stock is up more than 2.5%, to $26.63 in a 52-week range of $19.66-$30.62. The SPDR S&P Retail ETF (NYSE: XRT) is down about -0.4%, at $49.39 in a 52-week range of $37.49-$56.44. The Retail HOLDRs (NYSE: RTH) is up about 0.15%, to $104.34, in a 52-week range of $89.99-$114.38.

Paul Ausick

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