By Phil Wahba
March 6 Sales at many major U.S. retailers rose
in February, as shoppers ventured out later in the month after a
dismal start when ice, cold and snow kept many of them at home.
Costco Wholesale Corp on Thursday said U.S. sales
at stores open at least a year rose 3 percent, while L Brands
Inc reported a better-than-expected 2 percent rise,
lifted by gains at its Victoria's Secret lingerie chain.
The unusually cold, snowy weather that slammed retailers in
January continued into the first half of February, including an
ice storm that idled much of the Southeast for days.
Gap Inc reported a 7 percent decline in comparable
sales, and said 450 of its stores were closed at some point or
other in February because of the weather. Analysts expected a
0.9 percent increase. Gap's shares fell 3 percent after hours.
Excluding drugstores, the Thomson Reuters Same Store Sales
Index, which tracks a group of major retailers, registered a 0.3
percent increase for February, missing analyst projections for a
1.9 percent rise.
The S&P 500 Retail Index closed down 0.5 percent on
Thursday, while the broader S&P 500 rose 0.2 percent.
But sales trends improved as the weather got better and many
U.S. consumers got tax refunds, said John Cato, chief executive
of discount clothing chain Cato Corp.
Last week, the chief executives of department store chain
Macy's Inc and jeweler Zale Corp also reported
much brisker business after Valentine's Day.
"Bring on the spring, and you'll see a much improved
consumer spending pace, said Michael Niemira, chief economist of
the International Council of Shopping Centers.
He reiterated his expectation for consumer spending to keep
improving this year as the job market and economy gain strength.
A later Easter this year will dent March sales but help
overall sales for the season as weather is less likely to
disrupt shopping, Niemira said. Easter is on April 20 this year.
Shoppers kept gravitating to deals last month.
Teen apparel Zumiez Inc said its same-store sales
rose 2 percent as it held sales to clear out holiday season
merchandise. Rival chain Buckle Inc said its sales
declined more than expected.
Walgreen Co said fewer shoppers came into its
stores, but it sold more general merchandise, lifting its
comparable sales 4.5 percent. Rite Aid Corp said a
milder flu season had hit sales, but its same-store sales rose
Off-price retailer Stein Mart Inc said cold weather
in Northeastern and Midwestern states contributed to a decline
of 2.1 percent last month, when analysts were expecting a 2.5
The Children's Place Retail Stores Inc, which does
not report monthly sales, said it was "taking a cautious stance"
for its 2014 forecasts given the weather last month and the
"heightened promotional environment." Its shares were down 10.4
Costco also reported its full-quarter results, that showed
unusually deep discounting in the holiday shopping season hurt
margins, and its shares fell 3.2 percent.