March Sales Soar for Retailers

NEW YORK—Retailers reported almost universal gains for the month of March, buoyed by an earlier Easter holiday than last year. The results were favorable enough that Aeropostale, JC Penney, Kohl’s, Ross Stores, Target and TJX all raised their first quarter guidances.

According to Retail Forward, which tracks monthly sales results across 32 retailers, same-store sales were up 9.2 percent in March (excluding Wal-Mart). Commented Retail Forward economist Frank Badillo, “Everything from the weather to the calendar helped drive more shoppers into retail stores in March. There will be let-up in April, but sales should hold up better than might be expected given the ongoing recovery in spending plans by shoppers.”

“Retailers just turned in the single biggest monthly comp increase for our same-store sales index dating back to the start of 2000,” said Ken Perkins of Retail Metrics. “This has to go down as one of the more impressive sales month on record in the past decade.” Besides the Easter holiday shift, Perkins credited pent-up demand, good weather, higher tax refunds and brighter employment numbers.

The employment picture in the U.S. is a complicated one though. While the Labor Department reported an addition of 162,000 new jobs in March last week, today’s Labor Department report of first-time unemployment filings was up by 18,000 people.

Nordstrom, Saks, Bon-Ton, Macy’s, TJX, Gap, Aéropostale and Zumiez all reported double-digit gains in same-store sales. Kohl’s was the month’s biggest winner with same-store sales up 22.5 percent.

The only notable loser in March was Hot Topic: this year’s drop of 7.5 percent was compared to one of March 2009’s few gains (7.1 percent).

Better Stores

Neiman Marcus: Same-store sales were up 9.6 percent, helped by men’s categories, along with women’s apparel and shoes. By division, Neiman Marcus stores and Bergdorf Goodman reported same-store sales up 9.2 percent. The Internet and catalogue division saw an 11.1 percent increase. Total sales were up 11 percent to $341 million.

Nordstrom: Same-store sales were up 16.8 percent, beating analysts’ expectations of a 10.6 percent gain. By division, Nordstrom stores were up 17.6 percent and off-price Nordstrom Rack stores were up 4.7 percent. Total sales were way up, 20.9 percent to $815 million.

Saks Inc.: Same-store sales rose 12.7 percent. Total sales were up 13.6 percent to $209.8 million. Among the strongest performers were women’s apparel, shoes and handbags; and men’s apparel, shoes, and accessories.

Department Stores:

Bon-Ton: Same-store sales were up 11.4 percent with total sales up 11.2 percent to $272.4 million.

Dillard’s Inc.: Same-store sales were up 9 percent. Total sales up 8 percent to $526.8 million.

Macy’s Inc.: Same-store sales up 10.8 percent. Total sales were up 11 percent to $2.143 billion.

Mid-Tier and Mass:

Costco: Same-store sales rose 2 percent, excluding gasoline and the effects of foreign currency. Total sales up 12 percent to $7.14 billion.

Kohl’s: Same-store sales increased 22.5 percent. Total sales were up 26.4 percent to $1.812 billion.

J.C. Penney: Same-store sales rose 5.4 percent. Total sales rose 5.0 percent to $1.53 billion.

Stage Stores: Same-store sales up 8.6 percent. Total sales were up 12 percent to $140 million.

Target: Same-store sales rose 10.3 percent. Total sales rose 12.5 percent to $6.23 billion.

Wal-Mart: Wal-Mart is no longer reporting monthly sales results.

Off Price:

TJX Companies: Same-store sales were up 12 percent. Total sales were up 19 percent to $2 billion.

Stein Mart: Same-store sales were up 1 percent. Total sales dropped 1.2 percent to $133.6 million.

Ross Stores: Same-store sales were up 8 percent. Total sales were up 14 percent to $811 million.

Specialty and Catalog:

Gap Inc.: Same-store sales were up 11 percent. By division, same-store sales were up 13 percent Old Navy, up 11 percent at Gap, and up 10 percent at Banana Republic. Total sales were up 12 percent to $1.45 billion.

Jos. A. Bank: No longer reporting monthly figures.

Men’s Wearhouse: Not reporting.

Teen Retailers:

Abercrombie & Fitch: Same-store sales rose 5 percent. Total sales were up 19 percent to $275.4 million. By division: Abercrombie & Fitch same-store sales were up 10 percent, Abercrombie stores were up 12 percent, and Hollister was down 1 percent.

Aéropostale: Same-store sales up 19 percent. Total sales were up 25 percent to $200.1 million.

American Eagle Outfitters: Same-store sales were up 15 percent. Total sales up 15 percent to $280 million.

The Buckle: Same-store sales were up 7.2 percent. Total sales were up 12.4 percent to $86.9 million.

Hot Topic: Same-store sales dropped 7.5 percent. Total sales were down 6.6 percent to $65.9 million.

Pacific Sunwear: Stopped reporting monthly sales results as of February.

Zumiez: Same-store sales rose 13.2 percent. Total sales rose 20.1 percent to $35.8 million.

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