June Retail Comps: Best Since January

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

imagesNew York—While fewer than a dozen major retailers, accounting for some 6% of the $2.4 trillion in U. S. retail sales, still report monthly sales figures, their comp sales reports released Thursday sounded like good news. Sales were more robust—the strongest since January.

According to Thomson Reuters, June comparable store sales rose 4.2% ahead of analysts’ estimate for a 3.6% increase. A 3% increase is considered “healthy consumer spending,” Thomason Reuters reported.

Another June sales report from Retail Metrics showed a 4.1% increase—the largest so far this year behind a 5.1% jump in January.  The June results outperformed the 3.8% increase recorded in May, as well as a 0.3% upswing in June 2012.

A separate account of retail sales from the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) found a 4.1% gain in June. Excluding drugstores, the tally is up 5.3%—the strongest reading since last August, the ICSC reported.

According to Michael Niemira, chief economist at the ICSC, the improved June results coincide with improving consumer figures, such as an improvement in employment in the last three months and somewhat better consumer confidence levels.  June’s improvement bodes well for a stronger fiscal second quarter (May through July) after a “soft” first quarter, he added.

“Stronger employment data and increasing home and equity prices lifted confidence and spending this spring,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said. “The economy is improving, albeit slowly, but we still have a long way to go. Stagnant salaries continue to constrain further economic acceleration. While sequester and tax increases dampened sales growth in the first quarter, it appears that the economy absorbed most of the blow.”

Although the number of retailers reporting monthly data has slumped steadily in recent years, economists said the remaining retailers’ results provide a “snapshot” of what’s going on in retail in general.

Among the retailers reporting June sales results were:

•L Brands reported flat comparable store sales for June, missing analysts’ estimate. Total net sales rose to $1.101 billion compared to $1.077 billion a year ago. In addition, profit margins on merchandise were up, “above our expectations,” said Amie Preston, chief investor relations officer.

By division, comp sales at Victoria’s Secret were down 1% with a 9% drop in sales at Victoria’s Secret Direct. L Brands blamed the decreases on lower clearance sales due to a shift in the timing of the semi-annual sale. La Senza, its Canadian lingerie store, posted flat comp store sales while Bath & Body Works had a 2% gain.

Preston said L Brands was cautiously optimistic about July sales, predicting low single-digit gains in comp store sales.

•Gap Inc. posted a better-than-expected 7% increase in June, confirming the company’s momentum in its turnaround plans. Analysts’ average estimate expected a 4.7% increase. Total sales increased 8.5% to $1.53 billion. Comp sales increased 5% at Gap’s global division while Old Navy global posted a 13% increase. However, comp sales at Banana Republic were down 1%.

“We are pleased with our June sales results,” said Glenn Murphy, chairman/ceo. “Old Navy’s performance was particularly strong.”

•Cato Corp. said comparable store sales in June increased 1%. Total sales were up 3% to $86.1 million. “While June same-store sales were above trend, higher markdowns will affect our results for the quarter,” John Cato, chairman, president and chief executive, said.

“Year-to-date same-store sales results have been volatile, driven in part by various economic uncertainties as well as unseasonable weather,” Cato says. “We believe this uncertainty will continue and we remain cautious as we look toward the second half of the year.”

•American Apparel, Inc. posted a 7% increase, accounting for a 5% increase in comparable store sales in the retail store channel and a 22% increase in net sales in the online channel. Wholesale net sales increased 16% for the month. On a preliminary basis, June total net sales were $55.9 million, an increase of 7% over previous year.

•Buckle Inc. said its June comp store sales 3.4%, just missing analysts’ average estimate for a 3.7% increase. Total revenue rose 3.9% to $82.5 million. For the year to date, the Buckle’s comp store sales rose 2.2%. Total revenue gained 2.9% to $425 million.

•Zumiez Inc. reported a 1% increase in comps for June, below a 2% increase analysts had expected. Total sales for June increased 14.5% to $58.8 million.

The board sport themed retailer has seen its comp sales due to the continued fall in comparable store transactions. Looking at the trailing six months performance, the company’s comps have displayed a declining trend every month, with the exception of April when it rose 4.6% and February, when the company posted negative 8.9% comp

•Stein Mart’s June comparable store sales rose 6.5% driven by strong sales of women’s apparel. Best performing categories included women’s casual sportswear and boutique items. Weaker categories were men’s sportswear, women’s accessories and plus-size clothing.

Sales in the Southeast, Texas, Florida and states around the Gulf of Mexico were stronger than the Midwest, Northeast and California. Total revenue rose 2.6% to $109 million.

•Costco Wholesale Corp. reported June comp store sales rose 6%, beating an analysts’ estimate for a 5.4% rise. Comparable store sales in both the U.S. and international markets improved 6%. Total net sales climbed 8% to $9.92 billion in June.

Costco said changes in gasoline prices had a slightly positive effect, while foreign-exchange rates had a negative impact on comp sales.  Excluding for these effects, sales rose 8% internationally and 6% in the U.S.


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