For Stores, April Sours

T.J.-Maxx-AConsumers didn’t do all the shopping that stores expected in April, leading to some disappointing same-store results. 

Overall, the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) says its index rose 0.6% on a year-over-year basis, dampened by an earlier-than-usual Easter and unseasonably warm weather. On a two-month basis, however, the trade group says March-April sales pace held relatively steady.

Those that did shop went looking for bargains, favoring off-price chains. TJX, parent of TJMaxx, Marshalls and Home Goods, says comparable store sales climbed 7%. And at Ross Stores, comparable store results advanced by 7%, as well. “Our continued ability to deliver a wide array of name brand bargains to today's value-focused consumers drove broad-based merchandise and geographic gains in both periods," says Michael Balmuth, CEO, in the Pleasanton, Calif.-based company’s release. At Target, though, comparable-store sales grew by just 1.1%.

Middle-tier chains didn’t do well. Macy's, for example, reported a scant 1.2% increase, although it, too, pointed to a combined gain of 4.4% for the combined March and April period. (And online sales in April gained 29.9%.)

Sales fell 2% at the Gap, and 1.9% at Kohl’s. “As expected, warm March weather and an early Easter contributed to a decline in April’s sales,” Kevin Mansell, Kohl’s CEO, says in its release. 

A few stores actually beat expectations. At Nordstrom, same-store sales gained 7.1%. (Saks disappointed, however, posting a bump of 2%.) And Limited Brands, parent of  Victoria’s Secret, Bath & Body Works and Henri Bendel, says sales climbed 6%.

Among teen retailers, Zumiez gained 10%, well above expectations, and the Buckle came in with the 1% that had been predicted. But Wet Seal posted a 9.6% decline. 

ICSC says it expects May sales to advance by about 3%.

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