The new fiscal year got off with a bang for many retailers or apparel in February. Store traffic was boosted by better-than-usual weather in much of the East, which got Spring apparel sales off to a great start. The lack of snow this year helped comparisons to last year, when much of the country was slammed by storms. Although price promotions continue to be the rule rather than the exception, the discounting has subsided a bit. In February, the vast majority of major chains – or at least the top 16 that still report monthly same-store sales – turned in better-than-expected total and same-store sales results.
Total sales at the top 16 apparel-oriented stores that reported January results today rose a collective 6.7%, better than January’s 4.3% rise and much better than the increase from the November/December holiday season, which was below 4%. Same-store sales increased 6.1%, well above last month’s rate.
Total sales increased to $13.5 billion from $12.7 billion last February. However, it is important to keep in mind that most stores no longer report monthly sales, so the real proof will come later this month, when fourth quarter sales for the top 30 retailers, which include Sears, Walmart, JC Penney and many of the more important apparel specialty chains, are reported.
Teen skate retailer Zumiez led the pack for the third month in a row with a better-than-expected 23% increase in total sales and the second highest same-store sales rise in the group, 14%. Though still small, this company is executing extremely well in its core business and expanding into fashion and other areas as well, no doubt taking share from beleaguered PacSun and smaller independents.
Nordstrom was the top performing department store and, for the sixth straight month, among the top retailers in total sales growth, gaining 16.2% to $704 million, thanks to tremendous gains at its full-price division. Same-store sales at the upscale department store retailer doubled from last month, to 10%.
Kearney, NE-based Buckle, the only teen retailer reporting monthly sales, enjoyed the second highest total sales growth rate, at 14.8%, and the highest same-store sales increase, 14.8%. This company continues to fire on all cylinders, beating expectations by the widest margin in almost a year.
Off-pricer Ross Stores was also a big winner, with better-than-expected comps, evidence that consumers are still looking for quality and bargains. Ross saw total sales climb 14% to $677 million for the month. Comps gained 9%. Total sales at TJX, its much larger competitor (three times the sales of Ross) grew by 6.7% to $1.6 billion, with comps up 9%, beating last month but consistent with expectations. These stores keep merchandise fresh and the shopping experience exciting for bargain hunters, which results in frequent visits by its core customers. Are e-commerce businesses in the plans here? It will be interesting to find out.
Macy’s beat expectations with total sales up 5.5% and comps rising 4.6%, almost double last month’s increase. Macy’s continues to take market share from the likes of Penney and Kohl’s, in addition to smaller department store chains like Dillard’s (which stopped reporting monthly sales this month), BonTon and others.
Luxury retailer Saks Inc. impressed on both a total and same-store sales basis, up 7.2% and 10.5%, respectively. Stage Stores was the top performing traditional department store in total sales, which rose 7.4%. Total sales at Limited Brands were down 2% due to the divesting of its third-party sourcing business and the closing of several La Senza doors, but comps were up 8% due to impressive gains at Victoria’s Secret.
Several other top merchants fell short in January. Kohl’s results disappointed for the fourth month in a row, with total sales up by only 1% and comps down almost 1%.
Gap posted an unexpected increase in same-store sales of 4%, breaking seven months of declines. Target blew past expectations for the second month in a row, with total sales up 8% and comps ahead 7%.
|% Total vs LY||$||Millions||% Comps vs LY|
|The Bon Ton||0.9||0.9||199||199||0.7||0.7|