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Costco shines in March as other retailers muddle through

BY Marianne Wilson

New York — March was a so-so month for retailers, whose performance was impacted by unspring-like, cold temperatures in many parts of the country and a late Easter. (Easter falls on April 20 this year as opposed to March 31 last year.)

The eight retailers tracked by Thomson Reuters posted a 2.2% increase in March same-store sales, better than the expected 1.4% increase.

At the head of the pack was Costco Wholesale Club, which reported a better-than-expected 5% increase in total same-store sales for March. Net sales rose 8% to $10.43 billion.

Gap Inc. said that March same-store sales were down 6%, with the biggest declines at its namesake chain and at Old Navy. The retailer also reported that gross margins for its first quarter would decline, with a bigger rate of decline than they posted in the fourth quarter of the last fiscal year. But it affirmed its earnings-per-share targets for the year.

"While March performance has been challenging, we remain confident in the opportunities ahead," Gap CEO Glenn Murphy said in a statement.

At L Brands, March same-store sales fell 1%, compared with the 1.6% decrease expected by analysts.

Zumiez’s same-store sales fell 2.9%, beating estimates for a 4.4% drop. The Buckle reported a 1.8% decline versus the expected 3.2% drop.

Fred’s reported a 1.2% decrease in same-store sales, matching expectations.

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Pier 1 has stormy Q4

BY Dan Berthiaume

Fort Worth, Texas – Snowstorms that affected as many as two-thirds of the selling days in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2014 in some key markets dampened financial performance at Pier 1 Imports Inc.

Compared to the same period the prior year, net income fell 31% to $42.6 million from $61.7 million. Total sales fell 6% to $515.8 million from $551.6 million and same-store sales dropped 4.6%.

During the full fiscal year 2014, net income declined 17% to $107.5 million from $121.4 million. However, total sales rose 4% to $1.77 billion from $1.7 billion and same-store sales climbed 2.4%.

“Fiscal 2014 was a transformational year for Pier 1 Imports,” said Alex W. Smith, president and CEO. “Through our ‘1 Pier 1’ strategy we have evolved our operating model from a broad and productive portfolio of Pier 1 Imports stores to a true omni-channel retail business. During the year we added new functionality and services to our e-commerce capabilities and began positioning our stores as facilitators and ambassadors for Pier1.com. We are working hard to improve the Pier 1 Imports brand experience in every way – strengthening our store portfolio with new and relocated stores and continually enhancing our ability to provide customers with a seamless shopping experience.”

Pier 1 expects same-store sales growth in the mid-single-digit range for fiscal 2015.

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IBM to acquire Silverpop digital marketing software provider

BY Staff Writer

Armonk, N.Y. — IBM Corp. announced it will acquire digital marketing technology provider Silverpop. The Atlanta-based Silverpop allows marketers to target highly personalized offers and promotions. IBM said the technology will enhance its enterprise marketing capabilities.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Using Silverpop software and services, marketers monitor customer behavior — such as whether a customer commented on a company blog post, viewed a marketing video or talked about the business on Twitter. That data can help fine-tune the messaging.

"The acquisition of Silverpop turbocharges IBM’s ability to put the customer at the center of any organization," said Craig Hayman, general manager, industry cloud solutions, IBM. "Now, nearly any marketing, commerce or customer service professional from any business will have the ability to deliver the kinds of personalized customer experiences that make a measurable impact on the brand experience and the bottom line."

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