* March same store-sales up record 9.1 pct-Thomson Reuters
* TJX, Macy's, Kohl's see March biting into April sales
* Analysts see underlying signs of improved demand
* S&P Retail Index up 1.3 pct; Abercrombie, Kohl's down
(Adds link to review of results, adds closing share prices)
By Phil Wahba
NEW YORK, April 8 Top U.S. retail chains posted
a record rise in monthly same-store sales for March, helped by
an early Easter holiday and an improving job market, in the
strongest sign yet of revived consumer demand.
Sales at stores open at least a year rose 9.1 percent in
March, the largest monthly jump since Thomson Reuters began
tracking results in 2000 and ahead of Wall Street estimates of
a 6.3 percent increase. More than 90 percent of 28 retailers
tracked beat expectations.
Executives at retailers from department store operator
Macy's (M.N) to discounter Target Corp (TGT.N) warned on
Thursday that the huge jump in March would come at the expense
of April sales.
But analysts and economists focused on trends for the
combined two-month period, saying underlying consumer spending
was accelerating after six months of modest growth.
Michael Niemira, chief economist at the International
Council of Shopping Centers, said same-store sales had risen 9
percent in March by his tally, and he predicted April would be
flat to down 3 percent.
"It does bode well that the underlying performance
continues to show a healthy recovery," he said. "I think we are
seeing that sustained pickup. It won't be 9 percent. It may be
Analysts said retailers also received extra help from
better weather, a recovering labor market and easy comparisons
to 2009, when same-store sales fell 5 percent. [ID:nN08324871]
While department stores outperformed their peers with a
12.3 percent rise, discount retailers also enjoyed a strong
March. Teen apparel chains, which suffered double-digit sales
declines a year earlier, beat expectations.
"The results were strong across all industry groups," said
Ken Perkins, president of Retail Metrics. "It was clearly
broad-based strength and suggests to us that it just wasn't
about the Easter holiday shift and the improved weather."
Retail shares tracked by the Standard & Poor's Retail Index
.RLX finished the day up 1.3 percent on Thursday, helping
lift the wider S&P 500 Index .SPX into positive territory
despite worries about a potential default in Greece
Table on retailers' reported results [ID:nRPO6D36vM]
Review of the March same store sales [ID:nRPObz0cY1]
Easter sales were expected to hit $13 billion this year,
far less than other holiday periods such as the weekend of
Black Friday in November, when shoppers spent $41.2 billion,
according to the National Retail Federation.
But industry experts see the holiday as an indicator of
summer clothes shopping. Some questioned whether the even
average growth was sustainable while U.S. unemployment remains
"To just assume that this means the consumer is back and
retail is going to return to its former glory is frankly
inane," said Patricia Edwards, founder of wealth management
firm Storehouse Partners. "This is a little bit frugality
Department stores saw the biggest gains in March but said
April results would be far more modest.
Macy's said same-store sales rose 10.8 percent from a year
earlier, well ahead of the 7.9 percent increase analysts had
expected. It forecast flat results for April. [ID:nASA007K4]
Rival chain Kohl's (KSS.N) forecast a low double-digit
percentage same-store sales decline following its 22.5 percent
surge in March.[ID:nASA007KU]
Other retailers sounded similar warnings. TJX Cos Inc
(TJX.N) said same-store sales were up 12 percent, far above
estimates, prompting the off-price retailer to raise its profit
outlook. But it sees much more modest same-store sales growth
of 2 percent to 4 percent in April.[ID:nWEN2557] [ID:nWNAB7017]
Kohl's shares closed the day down 0.9 percent, while Macy's
ended up 0.9 percent. Target gained as well, ending 3 percent
higher after saying that earnings would come in ahead of Wall
Street forecasts. [ID:nASA007K3]
Retailers that reported March sales above Wall Street
expectations also included Limited Brands Inc LTD.N, which
posted a 15 percent rise. Its shares closed up 2.3 percent.
Gap (GPS.N), a laggard in recent years, posted double-digit
gains for its three major chains: Gap, Old Navy and Banana
Republic. Its shares ended up 3.1 percent.
Upscale department stores also fared well. Nordstrom Inc
(JWN.N) reported an increase of 16.8 percent, compared with
estimates of 10.6 percent, and rival Saks Inc SKS.N also beat
estimates, posting a 12.7 percent rise.
But in a sign of how Wall Street expectations may be
getting ahead of performance, Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF.N) came
in short of forecasts with a rise of only 5 percent
[ID:nASA007J6]. Its shares fell 1.4 percent.
(Additional reporting by Martinne Geller, Ben Klayman, Brad
Dorfman, Jessica Wohl, Dhanya Skariachan, Alexandria Sage,
Shradhha Sharma, Renju Jose and Viraj Nair; Editing by Michele
Gershberg, Leslie Gevirtz and Matthew Lewis)