December Retail Sales Gains Signal Good Holiday Quarter

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Retailers are announcing December U.S. same-store sales figures Thursday. Research firm Retail Metrics projected an overall gain of 3.8% year-over-year. In December of 2013, retail same-store sales rose 3.5%.

Although Retail Metrics indicated that sales for 2014 should be stronger, there are plenty of struggling retailers. Wet Seal Inc. (NASDAQ: WTSL) announced on Wednesday that it is closing most of its stores, teen retailer Delia’s Inc. (NASDAQ: DLIA) has already filed for bankruptcy protection and RadioShack Corp. (NYSE: RSH) continues to falter.

Walgreen Co. (NYSE: WAG) and Rite Aid Inc. (NYSE: RAD) previously reported same-store sales growth of 9.2% and 5.3%, respectively. Pharmacy sales gains at Walgreen rose above 14% year-over-year in December, compared with a 7.3% increase at Rite Aid. Front-end sales rose 0.8% at Rite Aid and 2.6% at Walgreen.

The number of retailers reporting same-store sales has declined significantly over the past few years, but the reported numbers do provide a kind of interim report on quarterly performance at the country’s retail stores. The following is a rundown on stores that have reported sales for December.

Costco Wholesale Corp. (NASDAQ: COST) reported early Thursday morning that U.S. same-store sales for December rose 5.0%. That is higher than the Retail Metrics estimate for a gain of 3.2%, including gasoline sales. Excluding the negative impact from gasoline sales, sales rose 8% in the United States. Net sales for December totaled $12.12 billion, up 5% over December 2013’s total of $11.53 billion.

Costco shares traded up 0.5% in Thursday’s premarket session to $145.00. The stock’s 52-week range is $109.50 to $146.82.

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L Brands Inc. (NYSE: LB) said same-store sales for December rose 4.0% compared with last year. Retail Metrics had estimated a rise of 3.5%. L Brands operates Victoria’s Secret, Pink, Bath & Body Works, La Senza and Henri Bendel stores. Net sales rose 5% to $2.21 billion in December.

L Brands shares traded down 1.44% Thursday morning at $85.80. The stock’s 52-week range is $50.78 to $87.58.

Buckle Inc. (NYSE: BKE) reported same-store sales for December rose 2.5% compared with the same month a year ago. The Retail Metrics estimate called for a drop of 0.2%. Net sales for all stores rose 5.4% and totaled $190.6 million for the month.

Buckle shares closed Wednesday up 1.2%, at $52.79 in a 52-week range of $41.45 to $54.13. Shares were inactive Thursday morning.

Stein Mart Inc. (NASDAQ: SMRT) reported a 5.8% increase in same-store sales for December, more than double the 2.3% growth estimate from Retail Metrics. Total sales for December came in at $189.5 million, up 7.9% from a year ago.

Stein Mart’s shares jumped about 5% in Thursday’s premarket to $15.00. The stock’s 52-week range is $11.25 to $15.04.

Zumiez Inc. (NASDAQ: ZUMZ) posted a same-store sales increase of 8% for December. Retail Metrics had estimated a rise of 3.9%. Sales for the month at all the company’s stores totaled $143.4 million, up 14.4% over December of 2013.

Zumiez’s shares traded up about 3.3% in the premarket session Thursday at $41.60, above the stock’s 52-week range of $20.68 to $40.43.

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