WRAPUP 3-Strong Black Friday helps US retailers’ Nov sales

* Sales index up 6 pct vs. estimate of 3.6 pct rise

* Macy’s, Penney, Abercrombie beat forecasts

* ICSC sees December same-store sales up 3-3.5 pct

* Standard & Poor’s Retail Index up 1 pct

* Macy’s shares down 1 pct, Aeropostale down 12.1 pct
(Adds ICSC forecast, links to graphic, updates shares)

By Phil Wahba and Martinne Geller

NEW YORK, Dec 2 (BestGrowthStock) – U.S. retailers posted their
best sales gains in four years in November, as shoppers were
drawn in by deals throughout a month that culminated with a
surge in “Black Friday” traffic.

But analysts cautioned that if retailers want customer
traffic to continue in December, they will need to continue the
discounts, which could pressure profit margins.

The Thomson Reuters same-store sales index, based on 27
retailers reporting, showed an increase of 6 percent for
November, compared with Wall Street’s estimate of 3.6 percent
— the best increase since September 2006.

About three quarters of the retailers, including department
store chain Macy’s Inc (M.N: ), discounter Target (TGT.N: ) and
teen clothier Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF.N: ) reported gains in
sales at stores open at least year.

“We’re seeing the results of pent-up demand,” said David
Bassuk, a managing director at consulting firm AlixPartners.
“There’s no question this was extremely driven by discounts.”

The S&P Retail Index (.RLX: ) rose 1 percent to a fresh 3-1/2
year high, although analysts were concerned about what the
discounts could mean for retailers’ gross profit margins.

“People are smiling today, but there are going to be some
big frowns coming later when profit results come out,” said
Bassuk.

Macy’s same-store sales rose 6.1 percent last month,
beating Wall Street’s forecast of 5 percent, and the company
said it raised its profit outlook. But shares were down 1
percent as the fourth-quarter forecast indicated that earnings
could be below loftier Wall Street expectations.

Retailers’ strong sales are the latest sign that the U.S.
economic recovery is on track as consumer spending accounts for
70 percent of the economy.

Also on Thursday, the Labor Department reported that a key
measure of U.S. jobless claims fell to its lowest level in more
than two years. [nN02209260]

The S&P Retail Index has risen 27 percent since August on
hopes of improving earnings, leading some analysts to believe
retailers’ shares are at a plateau.

For retail stocks to keep rising, shoppers need to keep
spending and not be so reliant on specials, analysts said.

“Ultimately, whether these stocks (go up) is on the
consumer’s shoulders,” said Wall Street Strategies analyst
Brian Sozzi. “Consumers need to start adding leverage to their
balance sheet” and spend more in non-holiday periods.

But shoppers, trained to seek out big discounts during the
recession, may not be ready to spend more.

“I only shop with coupons. I refuse to pay for anything at
full price,” said Adriana Petterman, a fashion recruiter from
Long Island, N.Y., as she browsed Macy’s in Manhattan for a
brown handbag. “I might not go back to the way I used to
splurge on myself.”

Black Friday unofficially kicked off the holiday season
last weekend, with early-bird discounts drawing hordes of
people to retailers like Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N: ), Best Buy
Co (BBY.N: ) and Macy’s before dawn. Wal-Mart and Best Buy do not
report monthly sales. [ID:nNN2529414]

The National Retail Federation forecast a gain of 2.3
percent in retail sales for the November-December holiday
period, excluding online sales, following a 1.1 percent
increase in 2009 and a 3.4 percent decline in 2008.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

For a graphic on November same-store sales, please see:

http://r.reuters.com/qyw28q

For the U.S. retailers’ November same-store sales review,
please see http://r.reuters.com/rud38q

For U.S. retailers’ November same-store sales, please see:

http://r.reuters.com/xud38q

TAKE A LOOK-U.S. shoppers’ holiday spending
[ID:nUSHOLIDAY]

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

DEPARTMENT STORES, TEEN CHAINS THRIVE

Michael Niemira, the chief economist for the International
Council of Shopping Centers, said the Black Friday discounts
were “aggressive” but planned, in contrast to the fire sales
seen in recent years.

ICSC expects that momentum to continue this month and has
forecast a same-store sales rise of between 3 percent and 3.5
percent in December.

Over Black Friday weekend, retailers benefited as more
people spent money on themselves and weather cooled after a
mild October, when people delayed buying winter clothes.

One of the few retailers to miss analyst forecasts was
luxury retailer Saks Inc (SKS.N: ), where November same-store
sale rose 5.3 percent, well below the 9.5 percent gain
anticipated by Wall Street. Rivals Nordstrom Inc (JWN.N: ) and
Neiman Marcus Group [NMRCUS.UL] reported stronger sales gains.

Macy’s rivals J.C. Penney Co Inc (JCP.N: ) and Kohl’s Corp
(KSS.N: ) also posted results above analyst forecasts. Global
Hunter Securities analyst Richard Hastings said the success of
department stores, with their wide array of products, reflected
how broad the economy’s improvement is.

Teen clothing retailers, with the notable exception of
Aeropostale Inc (ARO.N: ) and American Eagle Outfitters (AEO.N: ),
handily beat forecasts. Abercrombie & Fitch said same-store
sales were up 22 percent, and at Zumiez Inc (ZUMZ.O: ) they were
up 20.7 percent. Abercrombie shares were up 10.4 percent.

Aeropostale posted a 1 percent decline in November
same-store sales even though it was discounting its clothing by
as much as 70 percent on Black Friday. [ID:nN01169545] Its
shares were down 12.2 percent.
(Reporting by Phil Wahba and Martinne Geller; additional
reporting by Dhanya Skariachan, Jon Lentz and Helen Chernikoff.
Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Gunna Dickson)

WRAPUP 3-Strong Black Friday helps US retailers’ Nov sales