FINANCE

Specialty apparel mostly stays strong in April

BY Marianne Wilson

New York — Several apparel retailers, including Limited Brands, Zumiez and Ross Stores, posted better-than-expected sales in April. It was widely expected that an earlier Easter, which pushed demand into March, and cool weather would hurt sales.

Limited Brands, parent of Victoria’s Secret, reported a 7% rise in same-store sales for April, beating estimates.

Teen clothing retailer Zumiez also beat expectations with a 10.1% gain in April. The Buckle’s same-stores sales edged up 1% slightly higher than analysts’ estimates.

At Hot Topic Inc., same-store sales rose 7.5% in the first quarter, with sales up at both its namesake and Torrid chains. The company also raised its first-quarter earnings projection above analyst expectations, but second-quarter guidance missed expectations.

Ross Stores Inc. said its same-store sales jumped 7% in April, beating Wall Street predictions and prompting the discount clothing retailer to boost its first-quarter profit guidance.

But April was not kind to all apparel retailers. The Wet Seal Inc. reported a 9.6% decrease in same-store sales, a bigger drop than analysts expected, hurt by lower demand for tops and jewelry. Sales fell 9.1% at namesake stores and 12.1% at its Arden B chain.

Gap Inc.’s April same-store sales fell 2%, a bigger decline than analysts expected. But the retailer also gave a fiscal first-quarter earnings guidance above Wall Street’s expectations, and its February-April quarterly revenue beat analysts’ estimates.

Gap said its namesake and Banana Republic stores in North America posted gains in same-store sales in April, while Old Navy North America and international stores declined.

The Cato Corp. said that its same-store sales fell 6% in April, partly because Easter fell earlier than last year.

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Aéropostale to offer exclusive Battleship, G.I. Joe apparel

BY CSA STAFF

Hasbro has partnered with teen retailer Aéropostale for an exclusive line featuring the Battleship and G.I.Joe brands.

The line will include men’s graphic t-shirts featuring Battleship and G.I. Joe images ahead of the debuts of "Battleship" on May 18 and "G.I. Joe: Retaliation" on June 29.

“There is an immense amount of excitement building around the Battleship and G.I. Joe brands and upcoming films and the classic apparel collection at Aeropostale will allow fans to further immerse themselves in the iconic action-adventure brand experiences that have spanned from childhood play to big screen entertainment, and become a lifestyle statement,” said Simon Waters, SVP global brand licensing and publishing at Hasbro.

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Warm weather helps Target deliver Q1 comps growth

BY CSA STAFF

MINNEAPOLIS — April same-store sales at Target increased 1.1% and helped the company achieve a 5.3% first-quarter comps increase that was the highest in six years. How much of the performance was due to record warm weather versus good execution of a solid strategy against the back drop of an improved economy is debatable.

The 1.1% April comp wasn’t very impressive, unless of course you take into consideration the shift in Easter, which fell earlier this year and caused a portion of the sales related to the holiday to fall into March. That made for some wacky comparisons when viewed monthly basis. For example, in April 2011 the company reported a 13.1% comps increase. Given the magnitude of that increase, a 1.1% gain this year looks pretty good even though it is a lighter number compared with the February and March figures when exceptionally warm weather drove sales.

“We’re very pleased with Target’s strongest quarterly comparable-store sales performance in more than six years, which, as we’ve previously indicated, received an early-season boost from the combination of warm weather and an earlier Easter,” said Target chairman, president and CEO Gregg Steinhafel. “Target’s underlying sales trend remains quite healthy, as guests respond to a unique combination of fashion and great prices, combined with the convenience and value created by our remodel program and 5% REDcard Rewards.”

It’s good to see Steinhafel acknowledge that weather played a role in the company’s performance because it is far from clear whether the pace of sales activity is sustainable given larger trends in the overall economy. The other great unknown is to what extent ridiculously warm weather pulled forward consumer demand so that shoppers now don’t need to buy some of the stuff they would normally buy in the later spring and summer months. Given these variables, Target said it expects May same-store sales in the low- to mid-single digits.

As for April, once again comps were strongest in food, health and beauty and other household essentials. Comps in apparel declined modestly in April but remained slightly ahead of company performance for the first quarter. Hardlines and home both decreased in April, driven by Easter-sensitive categories. For the quarter, home experienced a low single-digit increase and hardline comps were essentially flat.

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