Daniel Hulshizer  /  AP file
Wal-Mart Stores said same-store sales for June rose 2.2 percent, missing forecasts.
updated 7/8/2004 12:38:15 PM ET 2004-07-08T16:38:15

A slow start to summer weather and higher gas prices stifled business at many of the nation’s big retailers last month, giving the overall industry a mixed sales performance.

As retailers reported results Thursday, the disappointments cut across industry sectors, with discounters like Wal-Mart Stores Inc., many department stores and some apparel merchants among those falling short of expectations.

However, J.C. Penney Co. Inc., Neiman Marcus Group, Inc., Saks Inc., AnnTaylor Stores Corp., and Limited Brands were among those whose sales met or beat analyst expectations.

“Everything from economic factors to weather pushed down sales,” said Michael P. Niemira, chief economist at the International Council of Shopping Centers.

Niemira’s sales index for 71 retailers for June was up only 2.9 percent, the weakest performance since last June, when the index reached 2.4 percent. The latest reading was short of Niemira’s already reduced forecast of 3 percent to 3.5 percent.

The sales reports coincided with a Labor Department report that the number of people signing up for first-time jobless benefits fell last week to the lowest level in more than three years.

Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, said unseasonably cool weather held sales back, but it is also still struggling with the effects of rising gasoline prices. Wal-Mart Stores said sales at stores open at least a year, known as same-store sales, rose 2.2 percent in June. Analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call expected 3.6 percent.

Same-store sales are considered the best indicator of a retailer’s health.

Excluding results from Wal-Mart, Niemira’s tally would have been up 3.4 percent.

Target Corp. said its same-store sales rose 2.3 percent, below the 3.5 percent analysts predicted. Total sales were up 8.1 percent.

Limited Brands had a 19 percent increase in both same-store sales and total sales for the month. Analysts expected a 14 percent increase in same-store sales.

AnnTaylor Stores Inc. had an 11.9 percent increase in same-store sales, better than the 6.7 percent forecast. Total sales were up 27.1 percent.

But Gap reported same-store sales were down 2 percent, well off the 4.1 percent gain estimated by analysts. Total sales were unchanged from a year ago.

High-end department continued to post strong sales gains.

Nordstrom Inc. posted a 5.7 percent increase in same-store sales, lower than the 6.3 percent forecast. Total sales rose 8.5 percent.

Neiman Marcus Group had a same-store sales gain of 13 percent, better than the 9 percent estimate from Wall Street; total sales were up 13 percent.

But Federated Department Stores Inc. posted a disappointing 3.4 percent increase in both same-store sales and total sales. Analysts had projected a 4 percent gain in same-store sales.

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