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Department store Kohl’s Corporation (KSS - Analyst Report) posted total sales and same-store sales results for the month of December compared with the prior-year period.

Kohl’s comparable store sales increased 3.4% for the five-weeks ended December 29, 2012 versus a same-store sales decline of 0.1% in the five-week month ended December 31, 2011. Kohl’s total sales increased 4.0% in the month of December 2012 to $3.4 billion compared to 1.7% growth to $3.2 billion in the year-ago month. Total sales for the period increased attributable to strong performance in the Western region, particularly in the Children’s category.

Quarter-to-date, sales upped 0.7% versus a decline of 0.7%, while comparable sales increased 0.1% versus a decline of 2.5% in the prior-year period.

Though December comparable store sales increased, it was lower than the company’s expectations due to late sales in the holiday season, which forced Kohl’s to give more than expected discounts to its customers.

Moreover, Kohl’s has reduced its earnings expectation for the fourth quarter and fiscal year 2012 due to weak quarter-to-date performance. The company now expects earnings in the range of $1.60 to $1.62 for the fourth quarter and $4.11 to $4.13 for fiscal 2012 versus its previous guidance of $2.00 to $2.08 for the fourth quarter and $4.52 to $4.60 for fiscal 2012.

The Zacks Consensus Estimate for the fourth quarter decreased 37 cents or 18.7% to $1.61 per share, while the Zacks Consensus Estimate for fiscal 2012 decreased 34 cents or 7.6% to $4.13 per share as most of the estimates were revised lower over the last 30 days.

Kohl’s holds a Zacks #5 Rank (Strong Sell) due to reduced guidance as well as lowered estimates. On the other hand, Kohl’s competitor Ross Stores Inc. (ROST - Analyst Report) carries a Zacks #2 (Buy). Ross Stores reported better-than-expected same-store sales growth of 6% for the five weeks ended December 29, 2012, compared with 9% in the prior-year period ended December 31, 2011. Total sales for the five-week period also climbed 11% to $1,276 million compared with $1,149 million in the year-ago period.

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