Snow What? February Best Month Since 2007


Despite major snowstorms in many parts of the country, retailers posted sunny results for the month of February -- their best monthly gains since the economy began its meltdown in November 2007.

Retail Forward, which tracks 30 chains, says its index of comparable-store sales rose 3.9%. And the International Council of Shopping Centers, which tracks a slightly different group of stores, says its index rose 3.7%.

"The numbers were better than expected, and given how much the weather dampened sales, the gains are really surprising," Frank Badillo, senior economist at Retail Forward, tells Marketing Daily. "Clearly, the bounce back is being driven by shoppers who had cut back on spending as a precautionary measure. They hadn't lost jobs, but were cutting back just in case, and now they feel good enough about the economy to resume spending."



High-end department stores had a good month -- led by Nordstrom, with a 10.3% gain in comparable-store sales, followed by Neiman Marcus, up 6.2%. The Dallas-based retailer says jewelry, women's contemporary sportswear, shoes and men's all performed well. And at Saks, same-store sales gained 2%.

After months of lagging, mid-level department stores also showed solid gains, with Macy's reporting a same-store sales gain of 3.7%. (In fact, the Cincinnati chain estimates that if it weren't for the snow, gains at both Macy's and Bloomingdale's would have been 5%.) At Kohl's, sales increased 3.7%, with the biggest gains in home and accessories. While those products were the soft spot for JC Penney, it says its sales advanced 1.2%, buoyed by a strong performance in children's clothing.

Among teen retailers, Aeropostale's sales gained 7%, American Eagle Outfitters 6%, and both Buckle and Abercrombie & Fitch climbed 5%. Hot Topic was the category's weakest link, with comparable-store sales dropping 7%, including an 11% fall at its flagship brand and an 8.5% gain at Torrid.

At Target, sales rose 2.4%, beating the store's expectations.

Badillo says that the consumer spending outlook continues to improve. The Columbus, Ohio-based consulting company says its ongoing ShopperScape analysis reports that the percentage of shoppers planning to spend less in the coming month compared with the same period last year declined to 40%, "the lowest percentage since early 2008." And for the first time since early 2008, "the percentage of shoppers planning to spend about the same in the coming month compared with the same year-ago period topped 50%."

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