Holiday Retail Sales End on a High Note

Good news about December’s business rolled in as retailers reported sales for the last month of 2017 as well as earnings from their holiday sales, which also included November.

Long-suffering retailers such as J.C. Penney Co. Inc. and Macy’s Inc. posted positive same-store sales for the holidays. JC Penney’s same-store sales for the holiday period increased 3.4 percent. Macy’s same-store sales were up 1.1 percent when including leased departments and 1 percent when not including leased areas.

“We are very encouraged with our overall comp-sales performance during the holiday season, which was led by home, beauty and fine jewelry,” said JCPenney Chief Executive Marvin R. Ellison.

Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette said, “Macy’s had a solid holiday shopping season, and we are pleased that our November/December performance resulted in positive-comp sales for the period, setting us up for a positive fourth quarter. Consumers were ready to spend this season, and we delivered with solid execution.”

The good news paved the way for some bad news for Macy’s. The retailer had previously announced the closure of its Macy’s locations at Westside Pavilion in Los Angeles; Laguna Hills Mall in Orange County, Calif.; and Stonestown Galleria in San Francisco. On Jan. 4, the company announced the stores will close in mid- to late March with going-out-of-business sales starting Jan. 8.

Wall Street analysts said the 2017 holiday season was one of the strongest in years. Ken Perkins of market-research firm Retail Metrics said the season’s success was no surprise. “The foundation for strong December, holiday and calendar Q4 same-store-sales growth has been set by the strongest economic growth since prior to the Great Recession, low unemployment, solid retail sales, rising home and equity prices that have pushed U.S. consumer net worth into record territory. Retail sales should be good in this environment,” he wrote in a Jan. 3 research note.

But holiday sales were not strong across the board. Denim-focused mall retailer The Buckle Inc. posted a same-store-sales decline of 4.1 percent for December while value retailer Cato Corp. posted a 9 percent same-store-sales decline.