Warm weather gives apparel retailers and department stores a boost in March

New York -- Many apparel retailers and department stores registered solid gains in March, as an early spring brought out shoppers looking for seasonal merchandise earlier than they typically would. Last month was the warmest March in North America in more than 50 years, according to weather data provider Planalytics.

Macy’s, Kohl’s Corp., Limited Brands and Gap Inc. were among the retailers who topped analyst estimates.

Macy's said that its same-store sales climbed 7.3%, outpacing the 4.8% increase predicted by the Street. The company also raised its forecast for the key revenue metric for the combined March and April period, citing its strong March results.

Macy's, which includes online sales in its calculation of the key monthly revenue figure, said that it benefited from an earlier Easter and moving a cosmetics event to March from April last year. Total revenue for the five weeks ended March 31 increased 6.9% to $2.36 billion.

Limited, parent of Victoria's Secret and Bath and Body Works, said its same-store sales in March rose 8%, handily topping Wall Street expectations.

Gap Inc. reported a 10% increase in same-store sales in March. The chain said it benefitted from customer response to its new merchandise. By brand, Gap North America’s sales rose 9%, and Banana Republic North America’s sales were up 5%. Old Navy North America saw its sales climb 11%. On the international front, sales were up 2%.

“We delivered solid sales performance in March and are pleased with customer response to product across all brands,” said Glenn Murphy, chairman and CEO of Gap.

Kohl’s credited warmer weather and an earlier Easter with helping to boost its same-store sales in March by 3.6%. Analysts had expected an increase of 2.1%.

Saks Inc. said its same-store sales rose 6.3% in March on strong demand for contemporary apparel, accessories and other items. The results matched average Wall Street predictions.

At The Buckle, same-store sales in March rose 6.4%, less than Wall Street had expected.

In other apparel same-store sales results for March:

• Zumiez said its same-store sales rose 14.1%;
• The Wet Seal reported a 7.8% decline;
• Cato Corp.’s sales increased 7%.

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