* June same-store sales up 4.8 percent -Thomson Reuters
* Gap same-store sales up stronger than expected 7 percent
* Costco same-store sales rose 6 percent, top Wall Street
* L Brands same-store sales miss expectations, but margins
* Fred's sales rise more than expected; shares rise more
than 2 percent
By Jessica Wohl
July 11 U.S. retailers' June sales suggest
overall consumer spending is improving, even though lower-end
shoppers are holding back on nonessential purchases.
Eleven stores registered a 4.8 percent increase in June
sales at stores open at least a year, topping analysts'
expectation of a 3.6 percent rise, according to Thomson Reuters.
The results show that same-store sales have perked up since
May, when they rose 3.4 percent, and are much stronger than a
year earlier, when they fell 1.8 percent.
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.
Government data released on Thursday showed the number of
Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits rose last
week, although the level still appeared to point to healing in
the nation's job market.
Gap Inc, which sells clothing, accessories and
personal care products via the Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy,
Piperlime, Athleta, and Intermix brands, reported a 7 percent
rise in June sales after markets closed - far better than the
4.7 percent gain analysts expected.
Costco Wholesale Corp, whose members pay annual
fees of up to $110 to shop at its cavernous warehouse stores,
said its same-store sales rose 6 percent last month. That result
surpassed analysts' expectations of a 5.4 percent increase.
"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
Sterne Agee analyst Charles Grom said Costco's surprisingly
strong sales came despite extreme heat on the West Coast, which
has kept shoppers away in the past. Visits to Costco's
warehouses remained strong, with traffic up nearly 5 percent.
Not all of the results were as good as those from Gap and
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 of a low-single digit
Same-store sales at Victoria's Secret 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.
Shares of Gap, which closed up 1.5 percent at $44.76, rose
another 0.9 percent in extended trading.
Costco shares finished up 2 percent and L Brands added 3.4
percent for the day.
Investors shrugged off weak same-store sales at teen chain
Buckle Inc and clothing retailer Cato Corp. The
results at both chains missed expectations, yet their shares
rose modestly as the Dow and the S&P 500 hit new closing highs.
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
BETTER SUMMER WEATHER
Some chains that focus on discounts fared well.
Fred's Inc, a general merchandise discount chain,
posted a 4.5 percent jump in same-store sales, well above the
analysts' 1.1 percent estimate. Warm weather helped sales of
lawn and garden, summer toys and other seasonal items after such
categories were weak during a cool and wet May.
Stein Mart Inc's low-priced apparel continued to
appeal to value-seeking shoppers, with same-store sales up 6.5
percent versus the analysts' forecast of 4 percent.
Shares of both companies rose more than 2 percent.
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.