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ICSC: July chain store sales rose 2.6 percent

BY HBSDEALER Staff

The International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) has reported a 2.6 percent gain in chain store sales in July, compared with the prior-year period.

The ICSC noted sales in July were “softer” than the 4.2 percent gain seen in June. The July performance still was in line with a year-to-date average of 2.5 percent year-over-year growth, said Michael Niemira, chief economist and director of research for the ICSC.

“Value and convenience retailers performed better in July than the industry as a whole as sales at discount stores, wholesale clubs and drug stores led the industry,” he said. “Although July captured some early back-to-school shopping, the month was dominated by clearance sales and discounts.”

The group predicted that in August, as demand for back-to-school and fall merchandise kicks in, industry sales will post a 2 percent increase.

Some of the country’s largest retailers reported mixed results in the period. At Wal-Mart, which accounts for the third highest sales volume of home channel merchandise in the country, same-store sales rose 3 percent. That figure was off slightly from Wall Street estimates of 3.4 percent.

Same-store sales at Target fell 1.2 percent in the period, deeper than a forecasted 0.3 percent drop.

Issaquah, Wash.-based Costco Wholesale said July same-store sales increased 10 percent. That figure is higher than Wall Street estimates of a 7.9 percent gain.

In related news, the ICSC released results from a survey indicating consumers plan to start back-to-school shopping earlier this year. About 78.5 percent of respondents surveyed said they expect to complete their back-to-school shopping before the end of August, up from 72.7 percent in 2007 and 69.5 percent in 2006.

Roughly one-third, or 34 percent, of the households surveyed reported having already started their back-to-school shopping, while 7 percent said they were already finished.

The ICSC, through Opinion Research Corp., surveyed 1,012 U.S. households from July 17 through July 20 for the survey.

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PRO Group makes key promotions

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Denver-based PRO Group has promoted Brendan Sullivan to director of merchandising, a new position, according to the company.

Sullivan is a 21-year industry veteran who has served in various merchandising and business development positions for Servistar/Coast To Coast and True Value prior to joining PRO Group in 2005.

“Brendan Sullivan’s experience and work style makes him ideally suited to a merchandising director role,” said Steve Synnott, president and CEO of PRO Group, in a statement. “Brendan has worked as a buyer and merchandise manager, and since he joined our company three years ago he has taken a leading role in providing progressive ideas and programs on the merchandising side.”

In addition, PRO Group managing director for the PRO Hardware and GardenMaster divisions, Shari Kalbach, has been named managing director for the company’s Farm Mart division, which supplies independent farm supply retailers.  

Kalbach joined PRO Group in 1997 and is responsible for all of the Group’s distributor relationships.  

“Shari Kalbach has a proven track record as a highly effective executive working with PRO Group distributor members,” Synnott said. “Adding Farm Mart to Shari Kalbach’s scope of work is a natural progression of her role. She excels working closely with our distributor members.”

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Design Within Reach narrows losses

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Design Within Reach, the San Francisco-based specialty home decor retailer with around 70 locations nationwide, saw net losses of $159 million, narrower than the $575 million in losses recorded in the same period last year.

Net sales for the second quarter decreased 3.7 percent to $47.3 million, compared with $49.1 million recorded in the year-ago period.

Still, the retailer saw an improvement in gross margin, a measurement of earnings that takes production and service costs into consideration — gross margin improved to 46.4 percent in the second quarter, compared with 44.3 percent in the same period last year.

In-store sales were $32.6 million, up 2.2 percent from last year. Sales from phone and the dwr.com Web site decreased 17.5 percent to $10.4 million.

DWR also said it predicted that “in light of the challenging economic environment, the company believes revenue will be flat year over year.”

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