CINCINNATI-Out of a total of 459 stores nationwide, Federated Department Stores owns 61 in the prosperous and populous state of Florida. When hurricanes made a punching bag out of the state in September, Federated’s sales there took a beating too—but not enough to adversely affect its overall third-quarter numbers.

According to the department store giant, sales in Q3 totaled about $3.49 billion, an increase of 0.2% compared to sales of about $3.48 billion in the same period last year. For the year-to-date, Federated’s sales totaled about $10.55 billion, an increase of 3.4% from sales of about $10.21 billion in the same period last year. On a same-store basis, Federated’s third quarter sales were up 0.4%, and its sales for the first 39 weeks of 2004 were up 3.4%.

Diluted earnings per share totaled $0.42 for the third quarter, compared to earnings of $0.36 in the same 13-week period last year. For the first three quarters of 2004, Federated reports earnings per share of $1.38, besting the $1.25 per share total in the same period of 2003.

“In October, we experienced more post-hurricane rebound in Florida than expected, but not enough to offset the negative impact in September,” said Karen M. Hoguet, SVP and CFO of Federated, during its earnings conference call this week. “Apart from the hurricanes, however, the trend improved throughout the quarter. October sales were consistent with original expectations, and in spite of the added costs associated with the hurricanes, we were able to bring in expenses lower than we expected.”

According to Hoguet, the best sales during the quarter were at the company’s Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s West and newly rechristened Macy’s Florida stores–formerly called Burdines-Macy’s–the latter despite the inclement conditions in early fall. Strength in handbags, jewelry, cosmetics and kid’s merchandise led the way, she noted.

Federated opened two stores during the third quarter, a Rich’s-Macy’s at Arbor Place Mall in Douglasville, GA, and a Macy’s in Rancho Cucamonga, CA. There were no store closings in the same period.

Looking ahead to the all-important fourth quarter and its holiday sales, the company expects December sales increases to outshine November, because this year the calendar has two more days between Thanksgiving and Christmas than last year. “As we move into the fourth quarter, we expect same-store sales to increase 1.5% to 3%,” Hoguet said. “Because of the calendar this year, which favors December over November, we expect November to be flat to up 2%, while December will be up 1% to 3%.”

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