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Unseasonably Warm Weather, Early Easter Bolster March Comps

 April 06, 2012 11:17 PM

Bolstered by a combination of unseasonably warm weather across much of the country and an early Easter, most retailers saw robust sales gains in March as shoppers snapped up spring merchandise earlier in the season than they normally would.

Total net sales for the 21 chains that reported increased 6.0% from a year ago to $35.7 billion in March, while same-store sales rose 4.4% on top of a 2.6% gain last year – this was the 31st straight monthly rise after 12 consecutive months of declines.

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Excluding drug stores, as Walgreens saw a steep decline due to the loss of the Express Scripts network, total sales increased 8.7% and same-store sales jumped 6.8% from the year-ago period. Over the last 12 months, consolidated sales increased 6.9% while same-store sales rose 5.0% on top of a 3.3% gain last year.

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Easter fell 16 days earlier this year than last, and temperatures across much of the country were extraordinarily warm in March, continuing the trend we have seen since Thanksgiving. According to Planalytics, a company that quantifies weather impacts on economic activity, more than 7,500 warm temperature records were set in March. However, the pacific region had its coldest March since 1977, and many cities are still feeling the freeze.

Nonetheless, these factors combined to drive very strong foot traffic and sales, especially at discounters and clothing stores. We are seeing a lot more full-priced selling of apparel and seasonal merchandise in the first quarter compared to heavy promotional activity over the holiday season, which should help improve retailers' margins.

However, because of the calendar shift and the weather effect, it's too early to tell how much sales were pulled into March from April. Last year, many chains saw comp declines in March and double-digit gains in April – overall same-store sales rose 2.6% last March and 8.8% last April – expect similar results this year.

click on company below for detailed monthly performance data

March Chain Store Sales ScorecardSame-Store Sales Chg
Company/SegmentSales (1,000's)YoY ChgMar-12Mar-11TTM-12TTM-11
Bon-Ton$ 254,100-0.2%-0.1%-6.1%-2.1%-0.5%
The Buckle$ 105,5008.9%6.4%8.4%9.3%1.4%
Cato$ 103,9006.7%5.0%-9.0%-0.1%0.0%
Costco$ 9,130,0009.6%6.0%13.0%9.8%7.8%
    excluding gas & f/x6.0%8.0%7.0%4.9%
Duckwall-ALCO$ 45,0003.9%2.3%0.4%3.2%-2.0%
Fred's$ 194,0002.7%0.0%0.7%0.4%1.7%
Gap$ 1,460,0009.8%8.0%-10.0%-0.8%-0.3%
    Gap North Am9.0%-9.0%-2.0%-1.5%
    Banana Republic NA5.0%-8.0%1.4%1.2%
    Old Navy NA11.0%-12.0%-0.3%0.0%
Kohl's$ 1,815,0005.3%3.6%-6.5%1.3%2.1%
Limited Brands$ 840,900-2.6%8.0%14.0%9.1%9.8%
    Bath & Body Works6.0%8.0%5.8%5.1%
    Victoria's Secret10.0%19.0%12.9%14.2%
    VS Direct3.0%8.0%3.6%8.3%
    La Senza1.0%-7.0%-1.5%-1.9%
Macy's$ 2,358,0006.9%7.3%0.9%5.8%4.0%
Nordstrom$ 1,029,00014.7%8.6%5.1%7.7%6.9%
    Full-Line & Direct9.3%5.5%8.6%8.1%
    Rack Stores7.3%-0.1%4.6%0.5%
Rite Aid$ 1,989,0005.2%3.6%-0.1%2.3%-0.7%
    Front End4.6%-1.8%1.6%-0.5%
Ross Stores$ 955,00015.3%10.0%-1.0%6.7%3.4%
Saks$ 276,5006.3%6.3%11.1%8.7%7.3%
Stage Stores$ 144,1007.5%4.7%-5.3%2.4%-1.2%
Stein Mart$ 127,5000.4%-0.3%-3.9%-1.1%-0.9%
Target$ 6,427,0007.9%7.3%-5.5%4.7%0.8%
TJX$ 2,330,00014.2%10.0%-1.0%5.4%2.0%
Walgreen$ 6,020,000-4.3%-6.8%3.0%1.2%1.8%
    Front End2.5%1.2%1.6%3.1%1.4%
Wet Seal$ 58,600-5.0%-7.8%4.7%-0.5%0.4%
    Wet Seal$ 50,000-4.2%-7.6%6.4%0.2%0.6%
    Arden B$ 8,600-10.1%-8.6%-4.6%-5.0%-0.8%
Zumiez$ 50,90023.5%14.1%8.9%9.5%11.8%
Total Stores$ 35,714,0006.0%4.4%2.6%5.0%3.3%


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