By Karen Talley
Retailers are generally reporting mixed sales for March, early reports show, with Limited Brands Inc. (>> Limited Brands, Inc.) a standout while Costco Wholesale Corp. (>> Costco Wholesale Corporation) faltered.
Limited Brands, which operates Victoria's Secret and Bath & Body Works, posted an 8% rise in March same-store sales when 4.4% was expected.
Costco posted a 5% gain in March same-store sales in the U.S. excluding gas, when 5.7% was expected. While Costco did have positive same-store sales in all departments, the retailer may be being undercut by the competition, retail analyst Brian Sozzi said.
Teen retailers are a mixed bag. Buckle Inc. (>> The Buckle, Inc.) said same-store sales increased 6.4%, when 8.8% was projected. Wet Seal Inc. (>> The Wet Seal, Inc.) same-store sales fell 7.8% when a 6% drop was projected. Zumiez Inc. (ZUMZ) posted a 14.1% rise in same-store sales when 8.9% was expected.
Rural department store chain Stage Stores Inc. (>> Stage Stores, Inc.) said same-store sales for March rose 4.7%, when 2% was expected, with accessories, children's, cosmetics, dresses and footwear all showing strength. Geographically, the Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, Northeast, South Central and Southwest regions all had comparable store sales gains during the month. The company cited warmer than normal weather and the earlier Easter for its solid showing, but said the holiday will have a negative impact on April comparable-store sales.
The misses by quite a few companies are surprising, analysts said. "March was an absolute bull month for the consumer, so it leads me to believe those retailers that fell short did not have products and prices that resonated with consumers," said Joel Bines, managing director of the retail practice at AlixPartners. "I think we're going to see some extremely strong results from the bigger players as they report."
A 5.3% rise in same-store sales is expected from the 18 retailers tracked by Thomson Reuters. The figure compares with a 1.7% gain a year ago, when Easter came two weeks later in April.
-By Karen Talley, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-2196; email@example.com