* Costco February comp sales up 6 percent, Limited up 3
* Same-store sales for 13 chains seen rising 1.2
By Phil Wahba
March 7 Victoria's Secret parent Limited Brands
Inc and Costco Wholesale Corp reported
better-than-expected sales for February, when consumer
confidence about an improving job market offset the impact of
After a difficult January, when shoppers first felt the
effect of a payroll tax hike that lowered take-home pay by 2
percent, at least some retailers got a little relief in February
from growing employment and a rising stock market.
Warehouse club chain Costco on Thursday reported a 6 percent
increase in sales at stores open at least a year, helped by
higher gasoline prices as well as strong sales of fresh food and
consumer electronics. Wall Street analysts were expecting a 5.1
percent gain, according to Thomson Reuters.
Limited's 3 percent same-store store sales increase also
came in higher than expected. The Victoria's Secret lingerie
chain led the gains, suggesting shoppers were still willing to
spend on some nonessential items.
Some 13 U.S. retailers are reporting February sales results
this week. Excluding drugstore chains Walgreen Co and
Rite Aid Corp, whose sales are heavily weighted toward
prescription drugs, Wall Street analysts expect the other 11
retailers to report a 3.3 percent same-store sales increase.
The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan's consumer
sentiment index rose to 77.6 in February from 73.8 in January,
amid optimism over jobs. U.S. private employers added a
larger-than-expected 198,000 jobs in February, according to the
ADP National Employment Report.
Still, the economy remained difficult for many shoppers.
Low-price specialty apparel chain Cato Corp
reported a smaller-than-expected 3 percent drop in comparable
sales, but it got help from shopping that was pushed off from
January, when many shoppers' tax refunds were delayed.
"February sales reflect the continuing difficult economic
environment," Chief Executive Officer John Cato said in a
Despite encouraging signs in the economy, chains that cater
to teenage shoppers, who have much less discretionary income,
struggled last month. The Buckle Inc and Zumiez Inc
both reported a drop in comparable sales for February.
Abercrombie & Fitch and American Eagle Outfitters
no longer report monthly sales but have said business
will be slow this quarter, which began last month.
Several major retailers stopped reporting monthly sales this
month, including Target Corp, Macy's Inc and
Kohl's Corp, making the monthly figures less of an
indicator of economic health than in the past.