Costco strong, L Brands weak as retailers report June sales

Thu Jul 11, 2013 8:08am EDT

* June same-store sales seen up 3.6 percent -Thomson Reuters

* Costco same-store sales up 6 percent, top Wall Street forecast

* L Brands same-store sales flat, below expectations

By Jessica Wohl

July 11 (Reuters) - Sales at U.S. retailers, including Costco Wholesale Corp and the company that runs Victoria's Secret, suggest that overall U.S. consumer spending is improving while discretionary spending may remain under pressure.

Analysts expect a 3.6 percent rise in June sales at stores open at least a year across the 11 U.S. chains that report this data each month, according to Thomson Reuters. That would be stronger than the 3.4 percent increase seen in May 2013 and a decline of 1.8 percent in June 2012.

According to Thomson Reuters, a 3 percent increase in same-store sales reflects healthy consumer spending.

U.S. consumer sentiment improved in late June, ending the month close to a nearly six-year high set in May, with the optimism more marked among higher-income families.

Costco said its same-store sales rose 6 percent last month, surpassing analysts' expectations of a 5.4 percent increase, which were the highest expectations for any company reporting. Members pay annual fees of up to $110 to shop at the chain's cavernous warehouse stores.

"We get no sense from the company's results that it is feeling any macroeconomic pressure at all," said Cowen & Co analyst Faye Landes, who has a "market perform" rating on Costco shares.

Sterne Agee analyst Charles Grom said visits to Costco's warehouses remained strong at nearly 5 percent and that the results surpassed expectations despite extreme heat on the West Coast, which has kept shoppers away in the past.

Not all of the results were as strong as those from Costco.

L Brands Inc, the parent company of chains such as Victoria's Secret and Bath & Body Works, said same-store sales were flat, missing Wall Street's expectations of a 2 percent increase and the company's own forecast for a low-single digit percentage rise.

Same-store sales at Victoria's Secret stores fell 1 percent after rising 11 percent a year earlier.

Still, L Brands said sales of regularly priced merchandise rose at Victoria's Secret, whose clearance discounts were not as aggressive as a year earlier. The company expects its overall July same-store sales to rise in a low-single digit range.

Same-store sales at teen chain Buckle Inc and clothing and accessories retailer Cato Corp both missed expectations.

Cato still expects its quarterly profit to decline as same-store sales have been volatile so far this year, in part because of economic uncertainty and unseasonable weather, said Chief Executive Officer John Cato.

"We believe this uncertainty will continue, and we remain cautious as we look toward the second half of the year," he said.

On Wednesday, Family Dollar Stores Inc said it expected its customers to remain under financial pressure and hold back from purchases that are not absolutely necessary. The discount chain expects its same-store sales to rise 2 percent this quarter after increasing 2.9 percent in the three months ended June 1.

At its peak in 2006, the monthly same-store sales index included 68 companies led by Wal-Mart Stores Inc, making it a much more significant gauge of consumer spending than the current group of 11.

Gap Inc plans to report its June sales after the market closes on Thursday afternoon.

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