Kohl’s joins holiday party with rebounding department stores

Kohl's put up big sales numbers throughout November and December, joining other department stores in a much-needed holiday rally for traditional retailers.

Kohl's reported a 6.9 percent surge in comparable-store and total sales during the critical end-of-year shopping period Monday, providing more evidence that Kohl's and its rivals have learned to better compete against Amazon.com.

Kohl's has more than 1,100 stores in 49 states, including 14 in the Indianapolis area.

The department store, based in Monomonee Falls, Wisconsin, boosted its earnings expectations for the entire year, sending shares up more than 7 percent at the opening bell. The numbers from Kohl's buoyed the retail sector, which was already moving higher after a strong holiday season at other chains.

Retail was the best performing sector on the Standard & Poor's index in early trading Monday.

Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail, said away from stores, online sales were "the star of the show" for Kohl's.

Macy's and J.C. Penney have already reported strong holiday sales growth, hinting that traditional department stores have figured out how to at least slow inroads made by Amazon.com as they boost their presence online.

Holiday sales at J.C. Penney stores open at least a year rose 3.4 percent, the retailer reported last week. Macy's saw a 1 percent rise in same-store sales during the holiday period.

Kohl's also has an agreement with Amazon in which customers can bring items bought on Amazon to its stores for returns.

Falling unemployment and consumer confidence have led to more packed aisles for some retailers, but not all.

"Like other department store groups, Kohl's has further work to do in the year ahead," Saunders wrote Monday. "However, these numbers signal it is firmly on the right track."

Kohl's Corp. now expects annual, adjusted per-share earnings of $3.98 to $4.08, well above its prior outlook of between $3.60 and $3.80 per share.

That's also much better than Wall Street projections of $3.79 per share, according to a poll by FactSet.

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