Key sales figure up 4.4 percent at Nordstrom

SEATTLE -- Nordstrom Inc. said Thursday that sales in stores open at least one year rose 4.4 percent in September, slightly below analysts' expectations.

The company said sales suffered in early September because returns increased due to the later start this year of the department store chain's big anniversary-sale event.

Nordstrom said it was also competing against strong figures from September 2011 _ a 10.7 percent jump in same-store sales _ when the company offered free shipping and free returns for online purchases.

Analysts predicted a gain of 5 percent in sales at locations open at least a year, according to Thomson Reuters. The figure is closely watched in retailing because it excludes new stores and those that closed.

The department store chain said retail sales in the five weeks ended Sept. 29 rose 7.4 percent to $1.01 billion, compared with $943 million in the same period last year.

Nordstrom said stores in the South and Midwest performed best, and the strongest categories were children's wear, handbags and men's shoes.

For the fiscal year so far, sales at stores open at least a year were up 7.5 percent and total sales rose 11.4 percent to $7.33 billion, the company said.

The Seattle retailer operates 117 department stores and 118 Nordstrom Rack outlet stores. The number of department stores was unchanged from a year ago, while the company added 13 Rack locations.

Nordstrom shares added 75 cents to $56.63 in morning trading. They are up 14 percent for the year.