Mild weather and the relatively early Easter helped March sales of apparel and accessories.
Total sales at the top 16 retail apparel chains increased a collective 8.5% last month. Store traffic was boosted by unseasonably mild weather, helping to move new collections of Spring apparel. Many retailers reported favorable reaction to the bright colors that pervade this year’s fashions. Price and coupon promotions were widespread, even though many retailers reported an increase in full-price sales over last year.
Sales at stores open at least a year, or same-store sales, rose a collective 7.3%, beating last month’s 6.1% rise.
Most apparel stores no longer report monthly sales, so the real proof will come at the end of the quarter, when all 30 retailers, including Sears, Walmart, JC Penney and many of the more important apparel specialty chains, release results.
Teen skate retailer Zumiez led the pack for the fourth month in a row with a better-than-expected 23.5% increase in total sales and a 14% comparable or same-store sales rise%. Buckle, another teen favorite, missed estimates with a 9% increase in total sales and a 6.4% increase in comps, while total sales at Wet Seal fell by 5%, with comps down almost 8%.
Long-beleaguered Gap was one of the top performers in March, with a 9.8% increase in total sales and a 8% same-store sales rise, with all divisions participating in the upturn.
Off-pricers Ross Stores and TJX were the second and third place winners for the month, as consumers continue to respond to quality and bargains. Ross saw total sales climb 15.3% to $955 million for the month. Comps gained 10%. TJX blew past expectations with total sales up 15% to $2.3 billion, and comps rising 10%.
Nordstrom was the top performing department store and, for the seventh straight month, among the top retailers in total sales growth, gaining 14.8% to $1 billion. Same-store sales rose 8.6%. Stage Stores was the top performing traditional department store in total sales, which rose 7.5%. Macy’s beat expectations with total sales up 6.9% and comps rising 7.3%, almost double last month’s increase. Macy’s continues to take market share from the other traditional department stores.
Kohl’s reported a better-than-expected 5.3% total sales increase and a 3.6% jump in comps, leading many to believe it was taking market share from JCPenney, whose monthly sales are no longer reported.
Total sales at Limited Brands were down 2.6% due to the divesting of its third-party sourcing business and the closing of several La Senza doors, but comps were up 8% due to impressive gains at Victoria’s Secret.
Target beat expectations for the third month in a row, with total sales up 7.9% and comps ahead 7.3%.
|% Total vs LY||$||Millions||% Comps vs LY|
|The Bon Ton||-0.2||0.2||254||453||-0.1||0.3|