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CINCINNATI–It’s not exactly a turnaround, but Macy’s is seeing signs of a flattening, rather than a decline in the economy, the company said at its second-quarter conference call. Inventory control measures, comp increases in online sales and a better-than-expected earnings performance has led to cautious optimism about a gradual improvement in overall sales, the company said.

“It does feel more stable,” said Karen Hoguet, CFO.

Sales in the second quarter were $5.2 billion, down 9.7% from the second quarter of 2008. Same-store sales declined 9.5%. Net income was $7 million, down from $73 million in the year-ago period. For the first half, sales were $10.43 billion, down 9.6% from the first half of 2008. Same-store sales were down 9.3%. The company posted a loss of $81 million versus earnings of $14 million the year before. However, online sales–macys.com and bloomingdales.com combined–were up 9.4% in the second quarter and 12.7% for the first half of 2009.

Stores in the 20 pilot My Macy’s districts rolled out in 2008, which emphasize local decision-making, outperformed more traditional units.”In the first half of the year, eight of the top 10 Macys were My Macy’s pilot districts,” Hoguet said. The program has now been rolled out nationwide.

The company opened no new stores in the second quarter. At the beginning of the third quarter, Macy’s opened two new stores in metro Dallas-Ft. Worth and Kansas City, MO; and re-opened a store in Houston.

Macy’s operates more than 840 department stores in 45 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico under the names of Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s.

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