Retailers report solid rise in sales

The nation's stores posted a second consecutive month of sales increases in October, the retailing industry's best performance in more than a year.

Results at chains as varied as Costco and Saks were clearly helped by easy comparisons to the dismal results of a year ago, but also by October's cool weather and Columbus Day sales. Retailing analysts said sales might also have been driven by pent-up demand.

Overall, the industry reported a 1.8 percent increase at stores open at least a year, according to Thomson Reuters. Retailers have not reported a sales increase that large since June 2008, when the industry's sales rose 2 percent. Nearly every sector had sales gains in October, with the exception of teenage-clothing retailers and department stores.

In a statement Thursday, Michael P. Niemira, chief economist and director of research for the International Council of Shopping Centers, an industry group, called the results "further evidence of retail recovery."

Clothing chains selling designer names at bargain-basement prices were the top performers. Sales at TJX stores open at least a year, a measure of retail health known as same-store sales, increased 10 percent. TJX, which owns stores including TJ Maxx, Marshall's and Home Goods, has been on a roll for months as consumers shop for bargains.

A TJX competitor, Ross Stores, also thrived, turning in a 9 percent sales increase.

Other discounters reported healthy numbers, including Costco (up 5 percent) and Kohl's, the value-priced clothing chain, which had its fourth consecutive month of positive sales. October sales increased 1.4 percent at Kohl's, though that was lower than analysts were expecting.

Kohl's also reported some signs of broader recovery, saying in a news release that its strongest year-over-year gains were in the home goods category, a retailing sector hit hard by the recession.

Wal-Mart Stores, the nation's largest chain, stopped reporting monthly sales figures in April.

Same-store sales at department stores - a group that was struggling even before the recession - declined slightly, falling 0.9 percent, according to Thomson Reuters.

Even so, some department stores had sales growth for the first time in months. Same-store sales increased even at the upscale chains like Nordstrom (up 6.5 percent) and Saks (up 0.7 percent). Nordstrom was one of the industry's top performers.

Other department stores did not fare as well. Sales declined at Dillard's (down 8 percent), Neiman Marcus (down 6 percent), Stein Mart (down 4.9 percent), J.C. Penney (down 4.5 percent) and Macy's (down 0.8 percent).