Pleasant weather warms up sales in February

Retailers across the board saw increased sales in February, thanks to unseasonably warm weather and increased consumer confidence that got shoppers out of their house and into the stores.

In a month that was solid overall, the discount sector showed its muscle, turning in a strong February same-store sales performance nearly across the board.

After suggesting last week that sales had accelerated and returned to a pre-holiday pace, Target reported Thursday that same-store sales for the month rose 7%, beating Wall Street’s expected 5.2%. Total sales during the period rose 8% to $5.13 billion, boosted by strength in the food, healthcare and beauty categories. Accessories and apparel performed above average as well.

Meanwhile, TJX saw same-store sales surge 9%, beating the 7% gain expected by Wall Street. Sales for the four-week period ended Feb. 25 were $1.6 billion, up 12% over last year’s $1.5 billion. “We believe that very favorable weather patterns during the month helped boost demand for spring apparel,” said Carol Meyrowitz, CEO.

Additionally, Costco Wholesale Corp. was another winner during the month, posting an 8% same-store sales rise, just edging the predicted 7.6% gain. Earlier, the membership club reported a quarterly profit rise of 13% to $394 million.

Ross Stores reported a same-store sales gain of 9% that beat Wall Street’s expected 4.6% rise.

Increased consumer confidence and Valentine’s Day all helped boost sales at most apparel retailers during the month. Big winners in February included Limited Brands, as the operator of Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works reported a same-store sales rise of 8%, beating Wall Street’s expected 6.2% gain.

Gap Inc. surprised on Thursday, reported a 4% same-store sales rise in February, above analysts’ expected 1.4% drop. By banner, same-store sales rose 12% at Banana Republic, 5% at Old Navy and 1% at namesake stores. Total sales rose 7% to $874 million.

Zumiez and The Buckle posted stellar results among the specialty apparel category as well. Zumiez saw same-store sales rise 14.2%, tromping an expected 5.1% gain. The Buckle recorded a 14.8% same-store sales gain, easily beating expectations, and demonstrating strong demand for denim, said the company.

Also during the month, Wet Seal same-store sales fell 5.8%, but still beat Wall Street expectations of a 9% decline.

 Results were more missed at department stores, as Macy’s turned in a strong performance and Kohl’s missed expectations.

For the month, Macy’s reported a same-store sales gain of 4.6%, beating the 3.5% rise anticipated by Wall Street. Online sales for the operator of Bloomingdale’s and its namesake banner surged 31.3%, boosting the same-store sales percentage advance. Total revenue in February increased 5.5% to $1.86 billion.

"We saw good consumer response to our early spring deliveries in women's apparel, and continued strong trends in accessories, shoes, cosmetics, men's and home, which bodes well for the months ahead," said Terry Lundgren, Macy’s chairman, president and CEO.

Kohl’s Corp., on the other hand, saw same-store sales dip 0.8% after Wall Street predicted a break-even month. Total sales edged up 1.1% in the month.

“February’s sales results were as expected. From a regional perspective, the cold weather regions – Midwest and Northeast - outperformed the company average for the month,” said Kevin Mansell, chairman, president and CEO.

Nordstrom same-store sales rose 10.2%, solidly beating Wall Street’s expected 5.6% gain, while Saks rose 6.6%, edging the expected 5.5% rise, and Bon-Ton Stores inched up 0.7%.


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