The second half of the year will be make-or-break for both ends of the retail spectrum. Can retailers in the bottom five rebuild for a dramatic turnaround to make 2012 a success? Can those in the top five maintain a lead? While several retailers have been missing expectations, others have been outperforming the market. According to Thomson Reuters, three-quarters of retailers reporting results beat expectations for comparable store sales in July. Overall, retailers have seen the strongest sales in the northeast and Midwest, a sign that despite shoppers caution, they may be beginning to find a sense of security.
"Retailers have been so cautious in the past six months in every area of expense as well as controlling inventories, that they are positioned for excellent financial performance for back-to-school and headed into Holiday," said analyst J. Philip Leichliter of J. Philip Group LLC. "Off-pricers have a strong position because they have benefitted well from the customers they picked up and retained during the recession, and are very focused on their merchandise strategy and continue to reduce inventories and increase turn."
Of the 20 retailers tracked by same-store sales results, here are the top five and bottom five retailers in July:
Top 5 Retailers (based on same-store sales for July 2012 compared to July 2011):
Ross Stores +6.0%
Limited Brands +5.2%
Stein Mart +4.5%
Zumiez, Costco and Limited Brands have remained among the top five since January, proof of a strong year for the retailers. Stein Mart, a retailer that has previously appeared in the bottom 5, has gained steam and reappeared in the top five for July.
"Our increases in comparable store sales for July and the second quarter reflect improvements in our merchandise and promotional approach," noted Jay Stein, interim CEO for Stein Mart. "We are encouraged by these sales gains which are an indication that our merchandising strategy is the right one for us."
Bottom 5 Retailers (based on same-store sales for July 2012 compared to July 2011):
Wet Seal -14.0%
Cato Corp -1.0%
The Buckle -1.0%
Wet Seal, now on the lookout for a new CEO, has also remained on the list since January leading the bottom five, evidence of a disappointing year. While Kohl's is no stranger to the bottom five either, it has seen progress. Between April (-1%) and June (-4.2%) the retailer had slipped in same-store sales, regaining a bit of traction for July (0.0).
"We are pleased with the improvement in July's comparable store sales," said Kevin Mansell, Kohl’s president CEO. "We have made significant progress in improving inventory levels as we enter the Back-to-School season and believe we have the appropriate mix of both basics and fashion."
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