Costco beats October sales estimates, Limited misses

Thu Nov 1, 2012 8:25am EDT

(Reuters) - Costco Wholesale Corp (COST.O) posted a better-than-expected 7 percent rise in October sales at stores open at least a year, but said November sales would be marginally affected by closures of its warehouse retail locations due to Hurricane Sandy.

Many retailers on the East Coast have had to shut stores, evacuate, or have suffered from multi-day power outages after one of the biggest storms to ever hit the United States disrupted normal life.

Monthly tallies of same-store sales provide just a glimpse into overall sales at major U.S. chains. Many retailers that could have seen a boost in sales ahead of the storm, including Home Depot Inc (HD.N), Lowe's Cos Inc (LOW.N) and Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N), do not report monthly sales. Neither do grocery chains, which likely saw shoppers stock up on water and non-perishable food in the days leading up to the storm.

Analysts expect nominal losses, but with the holiday season fast approaching, retailers have been scrambling to get back to business and get customers into stores.

"At this point in time it is too early to estimate the total sales loss from the closings," David Sherwood, Costco's director of finance, said on a recorded call.

"None of the warehouses suffered extensive damages," he said. <ID: nL3E8M13DO>

Limited Brands LTD.N comparable sales were up 3 percent while Wall Street was expecting a rise of 5 percent according to Thomson Reuters data, a rare miss for the company.

However, Limited raised its profit forecast for the quarter. The maker of Victoria's Secret lingerie said it now expects adjusted earnings of 23 cents to 25 cents a share for the third quarter, up from its earlier expectations of 15 cents to 20 cents a share. Limited reports results on November 14.

Sales at stores open at least a year at 17 chains tracked by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S were expected to rise 4.3 percent. That excludes drugstores. Walgreen Co (WAG.N) plans to report monthly sales on November 5 and Rite Aid Corp (RAD.N) is among those set to report its sales on Thursday.

October is usually a light month for retail sales, falling right after back-to-school and just before the holiday shopping frenzy kicks in. (Reporting by Nivedita Bhattacharjee in Chicago; Editing by Alden Bentley)