Thursday, April 9, 2009

A Sparkle of Light in March Same-Store Sales Reports

The apparel retail sector has reason to be a little hopeful today. Although retail same-store sales dropped in March, the declines were less than expected signaling an upturn in consumer confidence.

Reuters reports that more than half of the retailers that posted March sales, topped Wall Street estimates. Thomas Reuters' same-store sales index reports overall sales were down 1.8%, thanks to lower-than-expected sales growth from Wal-Mart. However, sans Wal-Mart's figures, sales fell 5%, slightly beating the 5.2% decline analysts predicted.
"The numbers are still soft, but given the deluge of negative news we have seen in the retail space over the last several months, it's got to be somewhat encouraging," said Ken Perkins, president of Retail Metrics Inc. "It looks like there is a little bit of an uptick, some pent-up demand ... for some discretionary spending." (Source: Reuters)
Investors responded to the encouraging news, pushing the Standard & Poor Retail Index up 4.6%.

The Easter shift from March to April negatively affected March sales results:
"The overall tone for March was actually stronger than the reported sales performance," said Michael P. Niemira, ICSC chief economist and director of research. "Sales performance was dampened due to several factors, two of which were calendar related; the first being a calendar-month shift that caused there to be one less Saturday in March compared with last year and the second being that Easter falls three weeks later this year, on April 12, as opposed to March 23 last year," said Niemira. "These shifts created an unfavorable month-over-month comparison with March of 2008. If we adjust for the calendar shifts sales for March were stronger than reported, in fact, up about 1 percent," Niemira added. (Source: ICSC)
Abercrombie & Fitch was the biggest loser with March same-store sales falling 34%, due to the company's continued resistance to discounting their merchandise in order to protect their brand's image. Comp. sales were weakest in week 3 and and stronger in weeks 4 and 5 reflecting the Easter shift. Weeks 4 and 5 were positively impacted by Spring clearance event. Across all brands, jeans, fragrance and fleece were the strongest categories. Comparable sales were down across all U.S. regions and Canada.

Macy's Inc. reported a 9.2% declined in same-store sales for the month of March, slightly beating Wall St. predictions of a 9.3% decline. Online sales (which include and and are included in same-store sales results) had another good month with a sales increase of 17.9% in March and 17.1% year-to-date. All figures were in line with management's expectations. Due to the Easter holiday falling in April instead of March, the company advises that the March-April period should be viewed together.

Limited Brands, Inc. reported March same-store sales decreased 9%, beating the company's expectations of a "low double digit decline" as well as analysts' estimates of a 12% decrease. The company projects mid-single digit same-store sales declines for April.

However, the struggle continues for the luxury sector.

Neiman Marcus was the worst performer in the sector, reporting same-store sales drop of 29.9% for March. The company said it experienced weakness across all regions and merchandise categories.

March Same-store sales fell 23.6% for Saks Fifth Avenue, missing Wall St. estimates of a 20.3% decline. The luxury chain experienced weakness across all merchandise categories, while Saks Direct and OFF 5TH showed strength.

Nordstrom beat analysts' estimates of a 16% decline, posting a same-store sales drop of 13.5% in March. The company reports that while the Nordstrom Rewards triple point event for Nordstrom cardholders had a favorable affect on sales, the positive results were offset by the shift in the Easter holiday from March to April. Rob Campbell, treasurer and vice-president of investor relations, said that cosmetics and junior women apparel were their strongest categories.

No comments: