Recession Concerns Expected to Hit Comps

Wall Street had the jitters on Tuesday, but rebounded in afternoon trading.


But the Boomer market remains in the doldrums, with little newness and more women holding off on self-purchases.

"Consumers are faced with an uncertain macroeconomic environment, a critical presidential race and increasing fuel and food costs, none of which seem to be abating in the near term," said Richard Jaffe, analyst at Stifel Nicolaus.

Aggressive promotional activity at AnnTaylor Stores Corp. has led Roxanne Meyer, analyst at Oppenheimer, to predict a 4 percent slide at the company. Chico's FAS Inc. is estimated to be down in the mid-double-digit range by Liz Pierce, analyst at Roth Capital Partners.

Gap Inc. is expected to report flat comps as the company continues to focus on margin expansion instead of topline growth, Slater said. By division, he expects a 2 percent drop at Old Navy, flat at Gap brand, and a 6 percent increase at Banana Republic.

Limited Brands Inc. recently lowered its February same-store sales guidance. The company now expects a 10 to 12 percent drop compared with a previously forecast 6 to 8 percent decline.

In the department store sector, Kohl Corp. is expected to report comps results within the company guidance of a 3 to 5 percent decline due to unfavorable weather, according to J. David Cumberland, analyst at Baird.

Target Corp. has estimated comps between negative 1 and positive 1 percent, due to slightly higher markdown activity in discretionary areas like apparel, soft home and beauty. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. guided comps in the range of flat to 2 percent.

Saks Fifth Avenue is expected to be down 2 percent, compared with last year's 25 percent surge, according to Slater.

While February is expected to be weak, it also remains a relatively unimportant month.

"The March-April selling period will be the first true test of what the American consumer will be buying in this current gloomy environment, and should also provide deeper info on the acceptance of key spring fashion trends," said Eric Beder, analyst at Brean Murray, Carret & Co. LLC.

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