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Friday, November 30, 2012 - Page updated at 07:00 p.m.

Retailers report weak November sales

By Amy Martinez
Seattle Times business reporter

Strong Black Friday weekend sales were no match for the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy earlier this month.

Seattle-based Nordstrom was among a core group of store chains that posted weak November sales Thursday, citing disruption from the superstorm.

Eighteen retailers reported that monthly sales at stores open more than a year — a key measure of their health — through last Saturday rose 1.7 percent, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers. That was well below the group’s expected growth of as much as 5.5 percent.

The weakness ran counter to reports of a strong start to the holiday shopping season, including a solid showing on the Friday after Thanksgiving.

Nordstrom, which was forecast to post a 4.5 percent rise, instead came in with a decline of 1.1 percent vs. a year ago, ending 37 straight months of increases. Nordstrom last saw a decrease in September 2009, when same-store sales dropped 2.4 percent.

The upscale retailer blamed lower-than-planned demand for markdowns at its half-yearly sale for women and kids, noting that customers want “fashion and newness, which has made clearance events less compelling.”

Nordstrom also cited store closures in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic regions resulting from Sandy, but added that sales in the second half of November “rebounded to their recent historical level.”

Lynnwood-based clothing chain Zumiez saw a 4.2 percent drop in same-store sales, while moderately priced Kohl’s slipped 5.6 percent. Target and Macy’s each reported declines of about 1 percent, missing Wall Street’s prediction for growth of more than 2 percent.

Macy’s CEO Terry Lundgren said strong Thanksgiving weekend sales — which he described as the largest by volume in the retailer’s history — were not enough to overcome Sandy and its aftermath.

Among the standouts were Victoria’s Secret parent Limited Brands and Issaquah-based Costco Wholesale.

Limited saw its same-store sales jump 5 percent, well above forecasts for a 3.4 percent rise.

Costco, citing higher gas prices and stronger foreign currencies, posted a 6 percent gain, narrowly beating the 5.8 percent increase expected on Wall Street.

Information from The Associated Press is included in this report.

Amy Martinez: 206-464-2923 or