From Kohl's To Nordstrom, Registers Ringing

Both high-end retailer Nordstrom and Kohl's, a budget-conscious chain, posted strong sales and earnings, in an indication that consumers up and down the economic spectrum are feeling safer about shopping.

The Seattle-based Nordstrom says net earnings for its first quarter jumped 43.8% to $116 million, compared to $81 million in the same period a year ago. And sales rose an impressive 16.7% to $1.99 billion -- up from $1.71 billion last year, fueled by a same-store sales growth of 11.7%. The company attributed the results to "ongoing progress in serving its customers with a compelling blend of fashion, newness, and quality."

More evidence came from Menomonee Falls, Wisc., with Kohl's Corp. reporting a 45% jump in earnings, and an 11% spike in sales. Even better, the company says, it increased market share. Net income rose to $199 million, compared with $137 million in the first quarter of its last fiscal year. Net sales hit $4 billion, up from $3.6 billion. On a comparable-store basis, sales gained 7.4%.



Kohl's raised its forecast for earnings this year. "Consumers appeared to be a little more confident in their spending, but remain focused on value and ways to make their dollars go farther," Kevin Mansell, Kohl's chairman/CEO, says in its release. "We will continue to be flexible in our sales and inventory planning as well as expense management in order to react to changes in consumer demand."

That fits right in with data just released by Kantar Retail, which reports that while consumers are shopping more, the recession did have an impact on their relationship with retail therapy.

Some 42% of those surveyed in its ongoing ShopperScape research say that although the economy is picking up, their shopping behavior is still somewhat changed, and 25% say those changes are significant. (About 33% say they aren't very shopping all that differently, or they haven't made any changes.)

Overall, the most lasting trends seem to be the urge to simplify, with 63% saying they are more selective about what they buy; 60% buying fewer things, and 44% reporting that they are giving things away.

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