Black Friday Regrets Stall Kohl’s, Gap as Competitors Gain

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J.C. Penney
A shopper passes by a 50% off sign displayed in a J.C. Penney Co. Inc. store at the King of Prussia Mall in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. Photographer: Paul Taggart/Bloomberg

On a day when many retailers’ November same-store sales exceeded analysts’ estimates amid a rush of holiday shopping on Black Friday, Kohl’s Corp., J.C. Penney Co. and Gap Inc. disappointed.

Comparable-store sales fell 6.2 percent at Kohl’s, 2 percent at J.C. Penney and 5 percent at Gap, all trailing the average of analysts’ estimates compiled by Retail Metrics. J.C. Penney said the decision not to join rivals and open at midnight on Thanksgiving hurt sales, while Gap cited competition from a promotional environment.

These results and consumers waiting for discounts to make purchases will make it difficult for retailers to lure shoppers before Christmas, and that could hurt sales, said David Bassuk head of the global retail at consultant AlixPartners.

“December is still highly questionable,” Bassuk, who is based in New York, said in an interview. “The consumer is now trained to buy on promotion, and they are smart enough to wait for that next big sale.”

Kohl’s, based in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, fell 6.4 percent to $50.37 at the close in New York. J.C. Penney, based in Plano, Texas, increased 0.6 percent to $32.22. Gap advanced

0.6 percent to $18.81.

Same-store sales for the more than 20 companies tracked by Swampscott, Massachusetts-based Retail Metrics, rose 3.2 percent last month, exceeding the estimate of a 3.1 percent increase, as 11 chains surpassed projections. Luxury retailers such as Saks Inc. and Nordstrom Inc. topped estimates as stock market volatility failed to deter wealthy shoppers from spending.

‘High-End Consumers’

“High-end consumers aren’t feeling as good as when the stock market was at 14,000, but they are feeling reasonably good and they are out shopping,” Saks Chief Executive Officer Steve Sadove said in an interview.

Gap’s same-store sales decline, which includes online revenue, was led by a 7 percent drop at its Old Navy chain, the San Francisco-based company said. Gap’s total comparable-store sales have declined for five straight months.

J.C. Penney opened its stores at 4 a.m. on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, while Macy’s Inc., Target Corp., Kohl’s and Best Buy Co. opened earlier at midnight. The earlier starts helped draw a record amount of shoppers on Black Friday, according to the National Retail Federation. For the entire Thanksgiving weekend consumers spent a record $52.4 billion, 16 percent more than a year earlier, according to the NRF.

By not opening at midnight, J.C. Penney gave away some sales to competitors, Ken Perkins, president of Retail Metrics said.

“They missed out,” he said.

Total sales at Kohl’s dropped 4.5 percent last month to $1.93 billion after gaining 8.1 percent a year earlier as revenue from accessories and children’s clothes fell.

The industry’s results “were a little disconcerting, given that they pulled out all the stops” with extended hours, free shipping and mailing promotional circulars earlier than ever, Perkins said.

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