January 3, 2013, 4:52 PM

The web shines for some retail chains in December

Early reports show comparable-store sales rose 4.5% for stores and the web.

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Sales reports released by a handful of chain retailers today show sales growth online over the holidays far outpaced industry estimates of 14% to 18% e-commerce growth.

Clothing retailer American Apparel Inc. says online sales in December increased 59% year over year, and 38% for the October-to-December period. The retailer had lesser year-over-year sales growth in its 251 retail stores. Comparable store sales—which measures the sales performance for stores that have been open for at least one year—for American Apparel stores in December were up 9%, and up 7% for October to December. Combined web and store sales produced 14% year-over-year sales growth in December, and 11% growth for the three months ending Dec. 31.

Although the apparel retailer did not break down dollar sales by channel, Internet Retailer estimates the web accounted for 48% of same-store sales growth in December, even though it accounted for only about 17% of total retail sales. This estimate is based on previously released Q4 2011 sales data from American Apparel. Using the growth percentages released by the retailer today, Internet Retailer estimates December 2012 web sales were approximately $11 million, while stores garnered $53.2 million.

Kohl’s Corp. today also reported strong e-commerce sales growth in December. The department store chain says online sales increased 46% during the month and says comparable-store sales increased 3.4%. Kohl’s includes web sales in its comparable-store sales calculation and did not release sales by channel in dollars.

Department store chain Macy’s Inc. reported combined sales from Macys.com and Bloomingdales.com were up 51.7% in December and says comparable-store sales increased 4.1%. Macy’s also includes web sales in its comparable-store sales calculation. Because these chains do not break out online and store sales in their comparable-store sales formula, it cannot be shown exactly how much the online sales growth contributed to comparable store sales increases company-wide. 

For the 17 chain retailers tracked by financial database Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S that have already released December sales, comparable-store sales were up 4.5% during the month; this calculation includes web and store sales as applicable. Other chain retailers retailers that reported December sales include Target Corp., which said comparable-store sales were flat compared with December 2011, and Limited Brands Inc., which said comparable-store sales were up 3% for the five weeks ended Dec. 29. Nordstrom Inc. said comparable-store sales were up 8.6% in December, while Gap Inc. reported a 5% increase on comparable-store sales. All the above retailers included online sales in their comparable-store sales calculations.

American Apparel is No. 287 in Internet Retailer’s Top 500 Guide. Kohl’s is No. 28, Macy’s is No. 14, Target is No. 23, Limited Brands is No. 406, Nordstrom is No. 31 and Gap Direct is No. 22.

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