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Retailers Show Sales Surge in February

New York City, Retailers posted an industrywide same-store sales gain of 4.9%, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers. American Eagle Outfitters, Warrendale, Pa., paced the field with comps of 32.4%. Also strong were Target Corp., which posted a 9% comp-store sales surge, and Brisbane, Calif.-based bebe, which reported a 15.3% comp-store gain.

The ICSC had expected sales growth of about 3%. “Although it seems that not one factor in particular was overwhelmingly dominant, it was clear that some improvement in the labor markets may have been one of the contributing reasons for the better-than-expected increase for the month,” said Michael Niemira, ICSC’s chief economist.

February 2005 also had the advantage of a Super Bowl, which last year was held in January. “I think the Super Bowl had something to do with the growth,” said William Cody, managing director of the Baker Retailing Initiative at the Wharton School in Philadelphia. “On the apparel side, it’s a two-pronged thing. Folks are flowing fashion a lot earlier now, and companies are selling more at full price.”

Gap Inc. had a disappointing month in terms of comp-store sales, posting a 3% decline. The San Francisco-based chain pointed to strong margin improvements, however.