Success of others is encouraging sign for Walmart’s apparel dept.

Americans spent lots of money on apparel in September, and that could be good news for Walmart where last we heard from stores division president and CEO Bill Simon apparel was a key areas where he was confident the retailer would see ongoing improvement during the back half of the year.

Simon expressed optimism about the apparel business in mid-August when Walmart reported second quarter results that included a mid-single comps decline for apparel that was said to be an improvement from the first quarter. His vow of ongoing improvement in the third quarter doesn’t necessarily mean apparel comps will be positive, but a strong showing in September from competitors across the board can only be viewed as an encouraging sign for a key Walmart department.

For example, sales results show shoppers had plenty of money to spend on apparel, at least more than analysts expected anyway, as leading department stores and discounters reported better than expected September same-store sales. Nordstrom led the pack with a 10.7% increase, followed by Saks at 9.3% and Macy’s at 5.3%. Ross Stores produced a 5% increase followed by Kohl’s at 4.1%, TJX at 4% and Dillard’s at 3%. The weakest performance was turned in by Gap, which reported a 4% decline at its North American stores and JCPenney where comps declined 0.6%. Target doesn’t break out its apparel sales, but did say the apparel and accessories category outperformed the company average, which was 5.3%.

As for Walmart, back on Aug. 16 in a recorded conference call, Simon noted, “We are well-positioned to gain sales and share for the important back-to-school season. We are expanding our offerings in important categories to regain customers, and we’re adding back items in key brands. I’m confident that the back half of the year will see ongoing improvement in apparel sales.”

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