By Michelle Graff
The J.C. Penney store in Brooklyn, N.Y. The retailer recorded one of the strongest performances in retail last year, with fourth quarter comps up 4 percent.
New York--The TJX Companies Inc. and J.C. Penney reported some of the strongest fourth quarter and year-end sales results in 2015, a year in which many big retailers struggled.

The TJX Companies’ Marmaxx U.S. division (comprising T.J. Maxx and Marshalls) recorded a 6 percent increase in same-store sales in the fourth quarter, while total sales were up 8 percent.  For the year, comps rose 4 percent and total sales were up 7 percent.

An increase in customer traffic helped to boost sales, with President and CEO Ernie Herrman, who took the reins from Carol Meyrowitz this year, noting that comps “significantly exceeded expectations.”

Meanwhile, J.C. Penney Co. Inc. continues to make a comeback. The Plano, Texas-based retailer saw fourth quarter comps increase 4 percent while total sales rose 3 percent. For the full year, same-store sales were up 5 percent and total sales climbed 3 percent.

Competing department store and off-price chains didn’t fare so well.

Macy’s continues to struggle, posting declines in same-store and total sales for the fourth quarter and full year. The retailer’s fourth quarter comps were down 4 percent year-over-year while total sales slid 5 percent.

For 2015, comps were down 3 percent while total sales decreased 4 percent.

Kohl’s also saw its same-store and total sales slip in the fourth quarter and for 2015 as a whole, with Chairman, President and CEO Kevin Mansell noting that the retailer’s fourth quarter comps were below expectations.

In 2016, Kohl’s is opening seven stores that are smaller than its traditional locations and two more Off-Aisle pilot stores, both in Wisconsin. Off-Aisle is an outlet store stocked with merchandise that was returned to other Kohl’s stores.

The retailer also is opening 12 outlet stores for sportswear brand Fila and will close a total of 18 underperforming stores, with specific locations expected to be announced by the end of March.

Among higher-end department stores, both Saks Fifth Avenue, which is owned by Canadian retail company Hudson’s Bay, and Nordstrom saw their off-price divisions outperform their full-line stores in both the fourth quarter and full year.

Saks Fifth Avenue’s same-store sales slipped 1 percent in the fourth quarter and full year while Saks Off 5th stores recorded comp increases of 2 percent and 6 percent for the fourth quarter and full year, respectively.

Nordstrom’s fourth quarter same-store sales were up 1 percent while total sales in the period rose 5 percent. For the full year, comps increased 3 percent and total sales climbed 8 percent.

In both periods, however, Nordstrom Rack outperformed the retailer’s full-line stores.

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