U.S. Retailers’ September Sales Miss Analysts’ Estimates

U.S. retailers including Gap Inc. and L Brands Inc. posted September same-store sales that trailed analysts’ estimates as a lack of new products failed to draw shoppers who are restraining spending in the choppy economy.

Same-store sales for the more than 10 retailers tracked by Swampscott, Massachusetts-based Retail Metrics Inc. rose 2.3 percent last month, excluding results from drugstores. Analysts’ had estimated a 3.4 percent gain.

The results, driven in part by a lack of new products from retailers, signal consumers are still holding back spending amid higher taxes, uncertainty about the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and the first government shutdown in 17 years. September also was warmer than usual, damping sales of fall merchandise.

“The lack of product newness drives weak mall traffic, which drives ongoing promotions,” Simeon Siegel, a New York-based analyst at Nomura Securities, said in a phone interview. “Couple that with unseasonable weather when you want to be selling seasonable products and that leaves you with less-than-exciting results.”

Gap, the largest U.S. specialty-apparel retailer, said today in a statement that same-store sales fell 3 percent, while the average of analysts’ estimates compiled by Retail Metrics was for a 1.8 percent gain. Shares of the San Francisco-based company fell 5.1 percent to $37.64 in extended trading after the results were disclosed. The stock had gained 0.5 percent to $39.68 at the close in New York.

Warm September

L Brands, which owns the Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works brands, said in a statement earlier today that comparable-store sales rose 1 percent, missing the estimate for a 2.1 percent increase. Shares of the Columbus, Ohio-based company fell 4.1 percent to $56.60 at the close.

September was warmer and wetter than last year, according to data compiled by Siegel, which may have kept shoppers out of stores pushing sweaters and jeans. To clear fall merchandise for colder-weather and holiday items, retailers deepened discounts, many offering items for 25 percent to 40 percent off the original price, according to Retail Metrics.

Warehouse club Costco Wholesale Corp., which boosted August sales results as shoppers sought durable goods, trailed estimates this month, posting a 3 percent sales increase, compared with a forecast for 3.4 percent growth.

Most chains tally same-store sales using locations open at least a year, making the figure a closely watched gauge of a retailer’s health because it tracks only established stores.

(Updates with Gap extended trading in fifth paragraph.)
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