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

BY Marianne Wilson

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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BBBY finishes year off strong

BY CSA STAFF

UNION, N.J. — Bed Bath & Beyond continues to dominate the home and housewares space and reported another quarter of impressive sales and earnings growth.

For its fourth quarter ended Feb. 25, the company reported net earnings of $351 million, or $1.48 per diluted share, an increase of approximately 32% versus net earnings $283.5 million, or $1.12 per diluted share, in the same quarter a year ago. Net sales for the fiscal fourth quarter of 2011 were approximately $2.7 billion, an increase of approximately 9.1% from net sales of approximately $2.5 billion reported in the fiscal fourth quarter of 2010. Comparable-store sales in the fiscal fourth quarter of 2011 increased by approximately 6.8%, compared with an increase of approximately 8.5% in last year’s fiscal fourth quarter.

For the fiscal year, the company reported net earnings of $989.5 million, or $4.06 per diluted share, an increase of approximately 32% over net earnings of $791.3 million, or $3.07 per diluted share, a year ago. Net sales for fiscal 2011 were approximately $9.5 billion, an increase of approximately 8.5% from net sales of approximately $8.7 billion in the prior fiscal year. Comparable-store sales for fiscal 2011 increased by approximately 5.9%, compared with an increase of approximately 7.8% in last year.

By the end of its fiscal year, Bed Bath & Beyond had a total of 1,173 stores, including 993 Bed Bath & Beyond stores in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Canada, 71 Christmas Tree Shops stores, 64 buybuy BABY stores and 45 stores under the names of Harmon or Harmon Face Values. During the fiscal fourth quarter, the company opened three buybuy BABY stores and closed one Harmon store.

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More March madness: Comps increase 7.3%

BY CSA STAFF

For the second month in a row Target’s same-store sales were nearly double the expected amount and the company increased its first quarter guidance as a result.

Same-store sales increased 7.3%, with half of the increase driven by growth in average transaction size combined with an increase in comparable-store transactions. Overall comparable-store sales in March 2011 decreased 5.5%.

“March sales were well above our expectations, reflecting a healthy underlying trend combined with the benefit of an earlier Easter and favorable weather this year. We’re now planning for a revised first-quarter comparable-store sales increase of 5% to 6%, reflecting a low-to-mid single-digit increase in our April comparable-store sales,” said Target chairman, president and CEO Gregg Steinhafel.

As a result of stronger-than-expected sales through March, the company currently expects first quarter 2012 adjusted EPS of $1.04 to $1.10, compared with prior guidance of 97 cents to $1.07. The company expects GAAP EPS of 96 cents to $1.02, compared with prior guidance of 88 cents to 98 cents. The 8-cent difference between the updated ranges represents the EPS impact in the first quarter of expected expenses related to the company’s Canadian market entry slightly offset by the favorable resolution of income tax uncertainties.

March comparable-store sales in food increased in the mid teens. Comparable-store sales in household essentials increased in the mid single-digit range, with the strongest performance in health care. Comparable-store sales in apparel and accessories increased in the low double-digit range, with strong performance across all categories and particular strength in boy’s and girl’s apparel. Comparable-store sales in hardlines increased in the low single-digit range, with the strongest performance in toys and the softest performance in electronics. Comparable-store sales in home increased in the low single-digit range, with the strongest performance in seasonal categories and the softest performance in decorative home.

In March, every region experienced a healthy increase in comparable-store sales.

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