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Retail Chain Store News, Online Store News, Retail Industry News, Departmental Store,: February Retail Sales Rally Despite Cold Weather

Thursday, March 3, 2011

February Retail Sales Rally Despite Cold Weather

February sales were strong despite rising gas prices and dropping temperatures, according to economists at Master Card Advisors’ SpendingPulse and the International Council of Shopping Centers.
The ICSC reported American chain-store sales climbed 4.2 percent in February compared with the same period last year. The result beat the ICSC’s forecast of a 2.5 percent to 3 percent gain. “The breadth and the strength of sales gains in February was encouraging as more retailers and retail segments participated in the improvement,” said Michael P. Niemira, the ICSC’s chief economist.

Michael McNamara, vice president of SpendingPulse, said February followed a trend of rising sales that began in fall 2010. “February held on to the momentum from the last few months. Ongoing strong performance by the financial markets and growing consumer confidence may have contributed to ongoing retail growth. … This is even in the face of the disruptive weather that put a damper on spending in several sectors,” he said.

According to SpendingPulse, February’s top performer was e-commerce. The category posted its fourth consecutive month of double-digit growth with a 13.2 percent increase in February compared with the same period last year. Apparel sales also did well, growing 6 percent.

For teen retailers, results were better than expected. Hot Topic Inc.’s February same-store sales declined only 1.4 percent, defying analysts’ predictions of a 5 percent drop. The City of Industry, Calif.–based retailer’s net sales declined 1.5 percent to $53.4 million in February.

Same-store sales for Zumiez Inc. shot up 12.8 percent in February. The Everett, Wash.–based retailer’s net sales jumped 18.3 percent to $32.7 million for the month.

Department-store giant Macy’s Inc. showed same-store-sales gains of 5.8 percent in February. Off-pricer Ross Stores Inc. reported a same-store-sales increase of 3 percent.

February’s retail sales almost stalled because of cold weather but then warmed up, according to Liz Pierce, an analyst for Newport Beach, Calif.–based financial-services firm Roth Capital Partners. The cold depressed both demand and sales for new spring merchandise. However, temperatures increased just as retailers promoted sales for the Valentine’s Day and the President’s Day weekends. However, Pierce believes the cold and fuel prices took a bite out of some of the month’s potential.

SpendingPulse’s McNamara also recommended retailers keep an eye on gas prices. “If gasoline prices continue to rise, this would mean less disposable income for other retail sectors,” he said. But increased prices at the fuel pump would ultimately benefit online retail.

Source : Apparel News Group

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