Major US retailers, including Wal-Mart, the world’s biggest retailer, reported today lower same-store sales figures for December 2008, confirming expectations for one of the bleakest holiday periods in decades. The figures remain significant as many retailers stand to make up 25-40% of their annual sales during the months of November and December.

Macy's, Inc. said same-store sales were down 4% in December; that figure rose to 7% for the combined November and December period. For the five weeks ending Jan. 3, 2009, total sales of $4.397 billion had fallen from $4.614 billion from the previous year. For the year to date, sales totaled $23.679 billion, down 5.4% from total sales of $25.04 billion in the first 48 weeks of the fiscal year 2007. On a same-store basis, Macy's year-to-date sales were down 4.6%.

Terry J. Lundgren, Chairman, President and CEO of Macy’s, Inc., said: “This has been the most challenging economic environment in memory, and I am proud of our organization for staying focused on delivering a compelling combination of value and fashion to customers who were shopping cautiously. We went into the fourth quarter with an objective of reducing inventory levels to position us for 2009. We are pleased to have accomplished that objective with approximately 7.5% lower inventory on a comparable store basis at the end of December compared with last year.”

The news comes on the same day that Macy’s confirmed it would close 11 underperforming stores. The list includes stores in Los Angeles; Colorado Springs, CO; Westminster, CO; West Palm Beach; Hawaii; Indianapolis; Brooklyn Center, MN; St. Louis, MO; Natrona Heights, PA; West Mifflin, PA; and Nashville, TN. Macy's, Inc. still expects to open three new Macy's stores and one replacement store this year. Following the store closings, Macy's, Inc. will operate 848 stores - 808 Macy's and 40 Bloomingdale's.

Online sales from and, however, were up by 39.1% in December and 30.1% for the year to date. The company expects to end the fourth quarter with more than $1 billion in cash on hand and no borrowings against its $2 billion bank credit agreement.

Meanwhile Saks Incorporated also announced today owned sales totaling $363.3 million for the five weeks ending Jan. 3, 2009 had fallen from $447.7 million for the five weeks ending Jan. 5, 2008, an 18.9% decrease. Comp store sales decreased 19.8% for the month. On a year-to-date basis, for the 11 months ending Jan. 3, 2009, owned sales totaled $2,906.8 million compared to $3,058.8 million for the previous year’s 11-month period ending Jan. 5, 2008, a 5.0% decrease. Comp store sales decreased 5.1% for the 11-month period. Businesses showing relative strength in December included eveningwear, bridal, children's apparel, jewelry, fragrances, Saks Direct, and OFF 5TH, while women's apparel, outerwear, men's clothing and advanced sportswear, women's shoes and handbags proved to weak spots.

Similarly, Neiman Marcus Group’s Specialty Retail Stores segment, comprising Neiman Marcus Stores and Bergdorf Goodman, posted a 31.2% decrease in comps in the five-week period ending Jan. 3, 2009.