Sales of umbrellas and rainwear may provide the only bright spot for U.S. retailers during the month of April.
April retail sales were impacted by an unusual cold spell and the early arrival of Easter, which pulled some sales into March. Making matters even worse: The same period last year was unusually strong, making for a tough comparison, as consumers were encouraged to shop in April given unseasonably warm weather and a late-arriving Easter holiday.
April's same-store sales, or sales at stores open at least a year, will be posted by major retailers on Thursday.
"It was awful," said Paul Walsh, senior business meteorologist at Planalytics, referring to the weather's impact on April same-store sales. "The primary reason is because the comparisons are up against last year's, which were absolutely daunting."
Lazard's same-store sales index of 45 retail chains is expected to fall 0.9% in April compared with a 6.6% gain during the same month last year. That's the first monthly decline ever since the index was created in 1997, according to Lazard Capital Markets analyst Todd Slater.
"While March is the most important month of the quarter and was generally above plan, the downside in April will likely eat into earnings cushions and result in downward first-quarter earnings revisions," Slater said in a Monday research report.
The companies most susceptible to revisions, or those with "the most earnings risk," he said, include: Limited Brands, which owns Victoria's Secret and Express; Target; TJX,which operates TJ Maxx and HomeGoods; and Wal-Mart.