By  on April 12, 2007

NEW YORK — Retailers as a group had much to smile about as most posted strong comparable store sales for March, helped in part by an early Easter.

The shift in the sales reporting calendar for retailers in 2007 gave March a boost as the popular pre-Easter shopping week shift, combined with fortuitous warmer temperatures in some parts of the country, boosted spring selling for apparel retailers. Analysts and individual retailers cautioned, however, that the positive same-store sales results for March could come at the expense of April comps.

In the department store sector, the majority of retailers reported double-digit growth year over year. Nordstrom was up 15 percent and Saks increased 10.1 percent. The luxury department stores weren’t the only ones to shine as comps at Kohl’s, J.C. Penney and Stage Stores increased 16.8 percent, 10.6 percent and 12.4 percent, respectively. All were up against relatively easy comparisons to last year.

Most specialty stores also reported positive same store sales growth. Standouts included American Eagle’s 20 percent increase; Aeropostale’s 15.9 percent gain; and Zumiez’ 17 percent growth. Gap posted positive comps at all three of its divisions for the first time in many months; Gap was up 4 percent, Banana Republic climbed 8 percent and Old Navy increased 10 percent.

In the mass merchant sector, Target climbed 12 percent in monthly same-store sales, while Wal-Mart’s discount stores rose 3.4 percent. Stein Mart, Ross Stores and TJX Cos. were up 8 percent, 6 percent and 6 percent, respectively.

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