U.S. chain store sales rise, but caution lingers

Thu Nov 3, 2011 8:18am EDT
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By Phil Wahba

(Reuters) - U.S. chain store sales continued to rise in October, but a number of early sales results missed analysts' forecasts, suggesting that shoppers remain more anxious about the state of the economy than Wall Street thinks.

Limited Brands LTD.N, the parent of Victoria's Secret, narrowly missed analysts' estimates with a 6 percent rise in sales at stores open at least a year and forecast a slower pace of gains for November, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Costco Wholesale Corp (COST.O: Quote), the largest retailer reporting monthly results, also missed forecasts despite help from higher gasoline prices and shoppers' continued search for bargains. Its U.S. same-store sales rose 9 percent, but Wall Street was eyeing 9.8 percent.

Overall, 23 major U.S.-based retailers that report monthly results were expected to post a composite same-store sales gain of 4.5 percent, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Retailers are coming off a strong back-to-school season, suggesting that U.S. shoppers are growing more comfortable spending.

But they are still careful heading into the biggest spending season of the year, industry experts said.

"Now going into the holiday season, consumers are going to start to be more selective," said Kurt Salmon retail strategist Megan Donadio. "They want to make sure they are getting value."

Consumer confidence was still low in October compared with historic levels, but did brighten a bit. And U.S. private employers added more jobs than expected last month, according to the ADP National Employment Report on Wednesday.   Continued...

<p>A Victoria's Secret store in Encinitas, California is shown here May 20, 2008. REUTERS/Mike Blake</p>