Oct 6, 2011
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September likely good enough for most US chains

Oct 6, 2011

Oct 6 (Reuters) - Bargain hunters helped retailers including Costco Wholesale Corp (COST.O) post strong September sales even as the stock market tumbled and consumer sentiment sagged.

Overall, U.S. retailers that report monthly sales are expected to post an average gain of 4.6 percent in sales at stores open at least a year, or same-store sales, according to Thomson Reuters.

Retailers are doing what they can to appeal to shoppers such as Joanna Polowitz, who said that she lost her job a month ago and thinks that the economy is getting worse.

"I'm definitely holding back, only buying necessities, socks for my son, food because it's reasonable here," Polowitz said as she shopped at a Walmart in North Bergen, New Jersey on Wednesday. "We're buckling down, not going to dinner as much." Most of the 23 retailers that still report monthly sales -- chains such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N) have abandoned the practice -- issue their reports on Thursday.

Wednesday's results were a mixed bag.

Costco, the largest warehouse chain, saw same-store sales, rise 12 percent in September, topping analysts' forecast for 10.1 percent rise.

And Zumiez Inc (ZUMZ.O), which sells clothing and equipment for sports such as skating and snowboarding, posted a 10.1 percent rise in same-store sales, while analysts were looking for just a 3.2 percent increase, and raised its profit forecast.

Walgreen Co's (WAG.N) sales rose less than expected, due in part to a slower start to the flu season.

The U.S. consumer in September "showed resilience in spite of all the troubling economic news," but higher gasoline prices than a year earlier are still a factor, said Michael McNamara, vice president of research and analysis for MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse.

McNamara and others noted that Hurricane Irene, which battered the U.S. East Coast at the end of August, may have shifted some spending in September to home improvement.

Chains including Home Depot Inc (HD.N), Lowe's Cos Inc (LOW.N) and Sears Holdings Corp (SHLD.O), which sell generators and other storm-related items, do not report monthly sales.

September is a particularly important time for retailers focused on children's and young adult apparel. Back-to-school shopping is the second-largest retail spending season behind the holiday period of November and December.

Same-store sales rose 4.4 percent in September, according to data released by the Johnson Redbook Retail Sales Index on Tuesday. That index measures a sample of large general merchandise retailers. (Click here for a same-store sales graphic: link.reuters.com/baw24s) (Reporting by Jessica Wohl in Chicago and Phil Wahba in New York, editing by Matthew Lewis)

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