Feb 23, 2011
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Saks benefits from better economy, TJX slows

Feb 23, 2011

NEW YORK, Feb 23 (Reuters) - Upscale department store operator Saks Inc (SKS.N) expects sales to grow faster this year than does lower-priced retailer TJX Cos Inc (TJX.N) as shoppers seem more willing to pay top dollar for high end brands.

TJX Cos Ltd, Saks

Saks is coming off its best holiday season in years, as shoppers resumed spending on expensive dresses, handbags and shoes by top brands such as Marc Jacobs, Versace and Oscar de la Renta, lifting sales at established stores by 8.4 percent during its fourth quarter.

The upscale retailer forecast that sales at stores open at least a year, or same-store sales, will rise by a "mid-single digit" percentage this year.

In contrast, TJX, whose chains include Marshalls and T.J. Maxx in the United States and Winners in Canada, said its same-store sales this fiscal year would rise by between 1 percent and 2 percent, far below its gains in recent years.

TJX shares were down 1 percent in morning trading, while Saks shares rose 2.5 percent.

TJX buys merchandise, often returns of designer brands like Calvin Klein and Elie Tahari from department stores, at below-wholesale prices and sells it at deep discounts.

Many shoppers, feeling better about their finances, have begun trading back up to department stores, as the holiday sales results of Saks and Macy's Inc (M.N) show, making it challenging for TJX to keep its market share gains.

TJX has been able to mitigate that by getting vendors to make products specifically for its chains.

For fiscal 2012, which ends next January, TJX forecast adjusted earnings per share of $3.78 to $3.93 from continuing operations on a same-store sales. [ID:nN15207679]

Saks said overall sales rose 6.8 percent to $866.3 million in the quarter ended on Jan. 29. Perhaps most encouragingly for Saks, and ominously for TJX, Saks said it was able to sell far more luxury items at their full price over the holidays. [ID:nN23128737]

TJX said same-store sales rose 2 percent and reported a better-than-expected profit for the quarter. But those gains compare to a 12 percent increase the year before.

TJX said it would raise its dividend to 19 cents per quarter, a 27 percent increase. Saks said it would open another three or four of its Off Fifth outlets.

(Additional reporting by helen Chernikoff, editing by Dave Zimmerman)

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