Chain-Store Sales Not as Bad as Expected

Most retailers posting March same-store sales Thursday delivered results that were better than analysts' expectations, providing some reassurance that consumers are still spending despite the late Easter and unusually cold weather.

Woman shopping for a dress
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Woman shopping for a dress

"For the most part retailers are posting a little better than expected March performance," said Dana Telsey, CEO of Telsey Advisory Group.

The Thomson Reuters Same-Store Sales Index rose 1.7 percent in March, beating estimates, which called for a decrease of 0.7 percent.

The unusually chilly weather during March is another factor analysts pointed to for impacting retail sales.

"The fact that we are having a stronger than expected March in spite of the weather is a good sign," said Telsey.

Analysts are also expecting same-store sales to be hurt with Easter arriving later (April 24), compared to April 4 last year.

Telsey said with the Easter calendar shift more of the sales will occur in April.

Among the strongest performances was Limited Brands said same-store sales rose 14 percent, while analysts were only expecting 1.5 percent increase.

Costco beat analysts' estimates with a 7 percent rise in same-store sales for March, excluding sales from gasoline prices and strong foreign currencies. Analysts were expecting a 5.5 percent increase.

The warehouse club company said the Easter calendar shift positively impacted same-store sales for March. Costco is closed on Easter.

Meanwhile, Target posted a drop of 5.5 percent, compared to analysts' forecasts of a decrease of 6.4 percent.

Gap posted a decrease of 10 percent, against estimates of a drop of 7 percent.

On Wednesday, Hot Topic reported a decline in same-store sales. The teen retailer delivered a 5 percent drop in March, compared to analysts' forecast of a decrease of 6.2 percent.

Zumiez reported same-store sales climbed 8.9 percent, beating analysts' expectations of 4.1 percent.

March 2011 Same-Store Sales

March 2011 Estimates
March 2011 Actuals
Costco 5.5% 7%
BJ's Wholesale 0.5% 1.3%
Target (6.4%) (5.5%)
JC Penney (3.4%) (0.3%)
Kohl's Department Store (7.9%) (6.5%)
JW Nordstrom 0.75 5.1%
Saks Department Store 0.8% 11.1%
Stage Stores (6.5%) (5.3%)
Macy's (2.0%) 0.9%
Gap (7%) (10%)
TJX (2.0%) (1%)
Limited 1.5% 14%
Ross Stores (1.4%) (1%)
Stein Mart (1.5%) (3.9%)
Hot Topic (6.2%) (5%)
Wet Seal (1.7%) 4.7%
The Buckle (0.5%) 8.4%
Zumiez 4.1% 8.9%
Walgreen (1%) 1.6%
Rite Aid -- (1.8%)
Source: Thomson Reuters; Figures in parenthesis are losses.