April Retail Comp Sales Jump Past Estimates

Lbrands-030614New York—After being foiled by winter storms and bad weather and a later Easter, retailers today reported a comparable store sales gain their biggest one-month increase since September 2011.

According to Retail Metrics, a research firm, April comparable store sales were up 6% ahead of its 3.9% increase estimate.

‘Improving Job Markets’ Help

Retailers benefited “from warmer temperatures, particularly in the first half of the month, as well as from the later Easter holiday,” said Ken Perkins, president of Retail Metrics. “Retailers were also the beneficiaries of an improving jobs market over the past two months that has led to modest income gains and higher spending.”

By another measure, the seven retailers tracked by Thomson Reuters posted a 4.6% increase in April comp sales (Gap Inc. expected to report after the market closes). Thomson Reuters projects the eight companies to record 2.8% growth versus a 4.3% increase a year earlier.

Warmer weather brought out shoppers looking to enhance their spring wardrobes. Meanwhile, the shift of Easter from late March last year to mid-April this year also favorably impacted April sales, while March sales were unfavorably impacted.

Several retailers reported combined March, April figures. For the two-month period, retailers reported 3.4% growth, down from 3.5% a year earlier.

Most retailers, including major such as Walmart, JCPenney, Macy’s Inc., Kohl’s, Ann Inc. etc., stopped reporting monthly sales data some time ago, making it difficult to get a snapshot of the entire industry. American Apparel, which had been reporting monthly, ceased its monthly reports in April.

However, many retailers will be releasing their quarterly results and outlooks in the next few weeks, which should help give a clearer picture of retail health.

Those still reporting monthly figures include:

●L Brands sailed past analysts’ expectations for April, posting an 8% comparable store sales increase for the month. That handily beat analysts’ estimate for a 4% comp store increase.
Total sales rose to $717.6 million for the month, compared to $660.5 million for the same month last year.

The positive report was partly due to the later timing of Easter this year, said Amie Preston, chief investor-relations officer.

By division, Victoria’s Secret comparable store sales increased 8%, beating expectations of a 4.2% rise. Bath & Body Works increased by 8% far better than expectations of a 3.3% rise. Victoria’s Secret Direct, which includes online, decreased 3%

For the quarter, the company reported sales of $2.391 billion, up from $2.268 billion for the same quarter last year. Comparable stores sales for the quarter increased 2%.

Based on the sales figures, L Brands has updated its predictions for first quarter earnings, to between 50 cents and 52 cents a share, up from its previous estimate of 44 cents to 49 cents a share.

●Buckle Inc. said its comparable store net sales rose 0.8% year-over-year, for April. Net sales for the 4-week period were up 2.4% to $75.6 million from $73.8 million last year.

●Zumiez reported its total April net sales increased 17.6% to $50.6 million, compared to $43.0 million a year ago. Comparable store sales increased 8.2% on top of a comparable store sales increase of 4.6% in the year-ago period.

March and April comp store sales combined grew 1.7% this year, the company said.

Categories that performed well in April included accessories, hardgoods, men’s and junior’s. Footwear and boy’s underperformed.

For the first quarter, Zumiez same store sales rose 1.8%, better than the low-single digit decline the company had previously forecast.

●Cato Corp. reported that April comp store sales increased 18%. Total sales also grew 21% to $93.5 million.

The best measure for performance is the combined sales for the two months, which grew 7% overall and were up 5% to the prior year on a comp store basis. Going ahead, first-quarter earnings per share guidance is raised to $1.03 to $1.05 range, from its previous outlook of 89 to 95 cents.

“April sales and the combined sales for March and April were above expectations,” said John Cato, chairman/president/ceo.

●Stein Mart Inc. reported an 8.9% growth in comparable store sales for April. Total monthly sales also increased to $108.1 million from $99.3 million in the prior-year month.

For the combined March-April period, comparable store sales grew 4.3% and total sales increased to $244.4 million from $234.7 million last year. The company noted that the combined March-April period removes the impact of the Easter calendar shift.

For the first quarter, comparable sales increased 2.6%, and total sales improved to $328.9 million from $321.4 million a year ago.

Geographically, Texas and the Southeast had the strongest sales in April, while the Northeast was more challenged. For the first quarter, women’s apparel and home posted the strongest sales, while men’s and accessories were more challenged.

“I am delighted with our strong April sales. As you know, February and March sales were impacted by colder weather and the Easter calendar shift. Now that warmer weather is here, our customers are responding just wonderfully to our spring merchandise,” CEO Jay Stein stated.

●Costco said its comp store sales rose 5% in April, beating analysts’ estimate for a 3.2% rise. In the U.S. the metric increased 5%. It rose 2% overseas.

Total revenue for the month rose 7% to $8.56 billion.

The wholesale club operator said the later Easter this year hurt its total revenue and same-store sales by 1.5 percent to 2 percent.

For the year to date, the company said that comp store sales rose 3%. The metric rose 4% in the U.S. and edged up 1% abroad. Total revenue for the year to date increased 6% to $73.21 billion.

 

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Jeff Prine

Jeff Prine, Editor at Large, Accessories Magazine
Jeff returns as a regular contributor to Accessories magazine. Initially Jeff worked as senior editor at Accessories more than 20 years ago and his love of the industry has followed him until present. Since his tenure here, Jeff has continued to report jewelry, watch and other luxury goods trends as executive editor at Modern Jeweler magazine, fashion director at Lustre, and as contributor on products and trends for consumer and trade publications and websites. In addition to his editorial experience, Jeff also served as an adjunct instructor for accessories merchandising at Fashion Institute of Technology. jeffp@busjour.com