Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Check Out Line: If Hot Topic is any indication, November won’t be so hot

December 2, 2009

doorbustCheck out the disappointing November sales results coming in early Wednesday morning.

Teen clothing retailer Hot Topic posted an 11.7 percent drop in November sales at stores open at least a year — worse than its own estimate of a decline of 8 percent to 11 percent.

Analysts, on average, were expecting a drop of 7.8 percent, according to Thomson Reuters data.

In November, which represents the start of the crucial selling season, same-store sales at its namesake stores fell 14.5 percent.

On a recorded call, Hot Topic blamed a low-teen percentage drop in the number of transactions and a low single-digit decline in the average transaction value. So not only did fewer shoppers come into its stores in November, they spent less while they were there.

Meanwhile, Walgreen said its November same-store sales rose 3.9 percent in November.  Analysts were looking for a stronger 6.1 percent increase.

The drugstore chain said pharmacy same-store sales rose 5.7 percent, while analysts expected a 7.2 percent jump. Same-store sales at the front end of the store, where Walgreen sells general merchandise, rose 0.8 percent – much less than the 3.8 percent increase Wall Street expected.

While demand for cough, cold and flu products slowed, it also said Thanksgiving weekend was notably softer, and weakness in demand for discretionary goods persisted throughout the month.

Wall Street is awaiting some clarity on the start of the holiday shopping season.

Early data suggests sales during the Thanksgiving weekend got off to a slow start, but those numbers are always questioned for their accuracy or ability to predict the outcome of the holiday season. Same-store sales figures that will be released over the next two days are expected to paint a clearer picture of what actually happened at cash registers in November.

Also in the basket:

Walmart targets video games with latest price cuts

Pantry Q4 profit beats on lower expenses

Poised to grow, Kellwood eyes deals (WWD, subscription required)

(Photo: Reuters)


Hot Topic is a good indication, but all of us know all too well that absolutely anything can happen. It’s probably a good idea to tread forward just a little more carefully. Not too much to worry, though, I should think.


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