February Comp Sales Actually Fare Better Than Expected

In Reports, What's New, Industry News by Jeff Prine

Only a handful of major retailers still release monthly sales results

Only a handful of major retailers still release monthly sales results

New York—There’s no need to remind most of the Northern half of the United States what kind of impact February’s weather must have had at retail.

A look at the remaining retailers who post monthly sales results shows that colder-than-normal temperatures and snow/ice storms took their toll on sales…until things started improving in the second half of the month. Not to mention the boost that Valentine’s Day and President’s Day sales may have had.

According to Thomas Reuters’ survey of major retailers, excluding drugstore chains, February comparable store sales rose 1.9%, down from 4.8% a year earlier.

‘Bring on Spring’

At research firm Retail Metrics, the February comp sales figure was projected at a 2.7% gain. Retail sales gained just 2% in February of 2013, excluding drugstore sales.

Retail Metrics noted that teen fashion stores are expected to see a drop of 7% in comp store sales during the recently ended fourth quarter. Home furnishings, home improvement items, luxury goods and footwear have performed better.

“Bring on the spring and you’ll see a much improved consumer spending pace, said Michael Niemira, chief economist of the International Council of Shopping Centers, who reiterated his expectation that figures will improve this year.

A later Easter (April 20) this year may hit March comp sale figures but will help overall sales for the season as weather is less likely to disrupt shopping, Niemira noted.

Many retailers, including Walmart, Target, Macy’s etc., no longer report monthly sales data, making it difficult to project the entire industry from the from the few that still report. JCPenney which temporarily released monthly sales figures since last fall, has ceased, too.

Two retailers that still report, Gap Inc. and American Apparel Inc. will report monthly sales late this afternoon.

Below are February sales reports from retailers that still release them:

●L Brands reported better-than-expected comparable store sales for February: up 2% and ahead of analysts’ estimate for a 1.3% rise.

Total net sales were $750 million, up from $712.7 million for the same month last year.

By retail brand, Victoria’s Secret boasted a 2% increase in comp sales— better than analysts’ predictions of a 1.1% increase.  At Bath & Body Works, comparable store sales increased 1%.

“After a slow start to the month, we were pleased with our performance around Valentine’s Day and with our soap relaunch,” said Amie Preston, chief investor relations officer, who predicted the shift from Easter to April would have a negative impact on March sales, when comps are expected to increase in the low single-digit range.

●Buckle Inc.  posted a February comparable store sales of 1.4%, better than the 4% drop analysts had expected. Net sales for the month increased 0.2% to $89.5 million from net sales of $89.3 million in February 2013.

●Zumiez Inc. reported a 2% improvement in its February comparable store sales ahead of analysts’ forecast for a 0.9% increase—and better than the 8.9% decrease a year earlier.

Net sales for February rose 8.8% to $48.4 million due mainly to an improvement of traffic in stores as clearance of inventory from the holiday season.

“Sales trends improved for the month driven in part by increased traffic as we cleared excess inventory carried over from the holiday season,” said CEO Rick Brooks. “That clearance, however, caused product margins to decrease in the period compared to the prior year.”

●Cato Corp. reported its February comp store sales increased 1%. Total net sales rose 3% to $87.0 million.

“February sales were negatively impacted by winter storms the first two weeks of the month. However, that impact was offset by strong selling in the last two weeks of the month driven by warmer weather and tax refund spending.” said John Cato, chairman/president/ceo.

●Stein Mart Inc.’s February comparable store sales dropped 2.1%, in line with an overall revenue drop. Total net sales were $84.5 million down from $86.7 million for the same period a year ago.

Florida and Texas had the strongest sales in February, with comparable store sales increases. Most other areas experienced sales declines due to severe winter weather, with the Northeast and Midwest being impacted the most, the company said.

●Costco Wholesale Corp. posted February comparable store sales ahead of analysts’ expectations: a 4% increase consisting of an increase of 5% at the U.S. stores and 1% at international locations.

Total net sales for the month were $7.90 billion an increase of 4% from $7.58 billion during the similar four-week period last year.

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