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September Sales Numbers Start to Roll In

We'll get the official numbers from ICSC tomorrow. Some retailers have already begun to report. Wal-Mart and Costco and other discount-oriented outlets continue to do well. Everyone else seems to be suffering.

September sales for stores open at least a year, known as same-store sales and a barometer of retail health, plunged 14.8 percent at Stein Mart, the troubled off-price department store. J.C. Penny's same-store sales fell 12.4 percent compared with a decrease of 3.7 percent for the same period a year ago. Dillard's sales dropped 12 percent. Nordstrom's same-store sales were down 9.6 percent. Sales at Kohl's decreased 5.5 percent. At Bon-Ton Stores, same-store sales decreased 4.6 percent compared with the period a year ago.

Blake W. Nordstrom, president of Nordstrom, said the deteriorating consumer environment led to “a weakening sales trend that was greater than our earlier expectations.”

Specialty retail sales figures were also soft. At Wet Seal, same-store sales were down 7.5 percent compared with a year ago. Sales at American Eagle Outfitters decreased 6 percent. At Pacific Sunwear sales were down 5 percent while Children's Place fared slightly better. Its sales were flat compared with a 2 percent decrease last year.

Dean Hillier, a partner and a retail specialist with A.T. Kearney, a management consultancy, said the Christmas shopping season “could quite frankly be one of the worst we've seen in 25 years.”

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