While this year's earlier-than-usual Easter did indeed dampen April sales results for the biggest retailers, the declines were less than many expected, an indication that more consumers are drifting back to the mall.
Kantar Retail, a consulting firm based in Columbus, Ohio says its sales index for April gained 1.2% -- down quite a bit from the 9.2% same-store sales gain in the previous month, which was buoyed by the earlier holiday, but still up from a decline of 2.3% in April of last year.
And the International Council of Shopping Centers, which tracks a slightly different group of stores, says its index gained 0.8% year-over-year. For the March/April period, ICSC reports sales gained 4.9%. (It doesn't expect to see that pace maintained, and is forecasting an annual gain of 3.5%.)
Higher-end department stores fared best, with same-store sales climbing 10.9% at Neiman Marcus, 7.5% at Nordstrom, and 3.2% at Saks Fifth Avenue.
While Macy's squeaked out a 1.1% same-store sales gain, the other mainstream department stores posted small drops, with Kohl's falling 7.7%, Dillard's and Bon-Ton both declining 5%, and JCPenney dropping 3.3%.
Teen retailers suffered too, with sales at Hot Topic giving up 12.5%, Abercrombie & Fitch falling 7%, American Eagle Outfitters 6%, and Aeropostale 5%.
Sales at Target eased 5.9%, while warehouse clubs gained, with Costco up 11% and BJ's Wholesale Club increasing 4.6%.
Kantar reports that despite the declines in April, shoppers continue to find themselves increasingly inclined to go shopping, and its ongoing ShopperScape says that only 40% of those polled say they plan to spend less in the month ahead -- the first time it has fallen to that level since early 2008. And more than 50% plan to spend more.
The survey also finds that people are feeling more secure in their jobs and better about household income levels.