Macy's gains as department store chain hopes for holiday cheer

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The largest USA department store operator said on Thursday that comparable sales fell 3.6% in the third quarter, their 12th straight decline, and one that was a percentage point worse than what Wall Street analysts were expecting, according to Thomson Reuter IBES. The company has been slashing costs, closing stores and reducing inventory - all in a bid to adapt to brick-and-mortar retail's new realities.

It's been a tough year for retail overall, with store closings on pace to top the worst year of the recession and several well-known chains filing for bankruptcy protection due to their debts. So the holiday season, always important, is even more critical.

Analyst Neil Saunders, managing director of managing director of GlobalData Retail, said he was encouraged that Kohl's "is innovating with both new products and services", but criticized Macy's for "the patchiness of its turnaround program".

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The holiday season, for Macy's, really kicks off with its annual Thanksgiving Day parade. "We are better this year than last year, particularly with fulfillment".

Macy's shares have decreased 51 per cent since the beginning of the year, while the Standard & Poor's 500 index has increased 16 per cent. But the department store chain reported weaker-than-expected sales as it continues to have a hard time pulling in shoppers into its doors. It also will pack and ship eligible Amazon return items for free at stores offering the service.

The company's third-quarter net income was $36 million or $0.12 per share, up from $17 million or $0.05 per share in the prior-year quarter. The company said Thursday that it would close three more stores, in Laguna Hills, Calif., Los Angeles and San Francisco, early next year. "We get the sense that Macy's fixes issues in a piecemeal way and that it lacks a unified vision for the future of the business".

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Excluding restructuring and other costs, Macy's earned $0.23 per share during the third quarter, following earnings of $0.17 per share during the same period of 2016.

Adjusted earnings per share beat analysts' expectations, while revenues missed their estimates. The decline in sales partly reflects the closure of stores previously announced by the company. Kohl's Corp. posted a disappointing earnings forecast Thursday morning, sending its shares tumbling before recovering at the end of the trading day at $41.17, up almost 1 percent. The company got some reprieve on Thursday, however, when the shares rose 11 percent to settle at $19.50. Nordstrom shares fell 1.1 percent in extended trading.

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