U.S. Retailers Report Modest Bump in March Sales

Store manager Ryan Shearer helps a customer at a Gap Inc. store. David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images
David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images
NEW YORK -- U.S. retailers are reporting a key revenue figure rose slightly in March, as shoppers held back on spending because of the cold weather across the nation, particularly the Midwest and East Coast, and continued fears about the economy.

Overall, 14 retailers reported on Thursday that revenue at stores open at least a year -- a key indicator of retail health -- rose an average of 0.6 percent, according to research firm Retail Metrics. Including drugstores, the number was slightly higher, up 1.5 percent.

"While clearly that's not a great number by any stretch, it could have been worse," said Ken Perkins, president of Retail Metrics. "Wintry weather conditions persisted deep into March depressing spring apparel, home and garden, and seasonal merchandise sales."

He expects April to be stronger, as the weather improves and customers respond to strong fashion trends such as colorful jeans. An earlier Easter, which meant one less selling day in March, will also help April results, he said.

The number of retailers reporting monthly sales figures has been shrinking. Big names like Target Corp. (TGT), Macy's Inc. (M) and Nordstrom Inc. (JWN) have recently stopped reporting. Walmart Stores Inc. (WMT), the world's largest retailer, hasn't reported monthly sales figures in several years.

Revenue in stores open at least one year is a key measure of a retailer's financial health, because it excludes stores that open or close during the year.

Retailers who do report had a mixed month, with those with more stores on the East Coast, where the weather was cold and wet, faring worse than stores on the West Coast.

TJX Cos. (TJX), which operates TJX and Home Goods stores, said revenue in stores open at least one year fell 2 percent, while analysts expected a 1 percent drop. The company said that the drop was due to the weather and the Easter shift, and they expect a stronger April.

"Overall business trends improved as the weather became warmer," said CEO Carol Meyrowitz. "April is off to a good start, our inventories are in great shape, and we are seeing an enormous amount of desirable product in the marketplace."

L Brands, formerly Limited Brands Inc. (LTD), the parent of Victoria's Secret and Bath and Body Works, says the revenue figure was flat, above analyst expectations for a drop, according to Thomson Reuters.

Warehouse club operator Costco Wholesale Corp.'s (COST) revenue figure rose 4 percent in March, short of expectations for a 5.2 percent rise.

Department store operator Stein Mart Inc. (SMRT) said revenue at stores open at least a year dropped 2.8 percent in March, falling short of Wall Street predictions. The company said sales were hurt by cold weather and an earlier Easter holiday.

"This year, more than ever, it will be important to combine March and April sales results to get a true picture of our spring selling season due to this year's Easter calendar shift," said CEO Jay Stein.

Economists monitor consumer spending because it accounts for more than 70 percent of economic activity.

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Yah, it was the weather.....lol.

April 12 2013 at 1:51 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The number of retailers reports is growing smaller - translations the numbers aren't worth the paper they are printed on. You Obamaites take comfort in this, GEEZ.

April 11 2013 at 11:17 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

I can't wait untill next month to see the update

April 11 2013 at 10:18 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

Whose paying for the Defense Industry genius all those 20 hour minimum wage jobs?

April 11 2013 at 1:28 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply

All these little know small fry retail stores do very little to support the economy as they pay crap wages and only part time jobs.

April 11 2013 at 1:22 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

0.6% isn't enought for this guy? That's a 7.2% increase when annualized. That is a good, solid retail growth rate. He must be a political conservative refusing to believe current economic policies are in fact reviving an economy wrecked by his fellow right-wingers.

April 11 2013 at 12:50 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Peter's comment

If the policies create crap like this then you just ruined your arguement.

April 11 2013 at 1:25 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply