International News - Revived Gap contradicts sector

Gap's continued revival outshone an overall weak performance by US clothing specialists at Christmas.

Comparable sales at Gap increased by 5 per cent in December, compared to an 11 per cent fall in the previous December.

The increase straddled all divisions, including Gap's US and international stores, Banana Republic and Old Navy. The greatest improvement was at Old Navy, with an increase in comparable sales of 9 per cent in December following a 14 per cent decline in the same month in 2001.

Finance chief Heidi Kunz said 'increased conversion rates and units per transaction' boosted sales at Gap and Old Navy.

TK Maxx owner TJX Companies also posted improvement with a more modest 1 per cent increase in comparable sales. President and chief executive Edmond English said he was pleased with the figures.

He added: 'Our focus on gift merchandise and shipping fresh product late into the selling season enabled us to successfully meet the challenges of the difficult economic and highly promotional retail environments.'

Meanwhile, weak traffic in stores was blamed for a 7 per cent fall in comparable sales at Monsoon franchise operator Charming Shoppes.

Womenswear chain Lane Bryant was the worst performing division, reporting a fall of 13 per cent.

Flat sales at Limited Brands were buoyed by a relatively strong performance at Victoria's Secret, which increased like-for-likes by 5 per cent.