By  on May 11, 2007

Spring has been a roller-coaster ride for many retailers as the shift of Easter sales earlier in the season this year boosted March comps at the expense of April results.

When stores reported April same-store sales Thursday, retailers and industry observers said the most accurate picture of how the industry fared this spring looked at both March and April because of the holiday shift.

“If you just looked at sales figures versus a year ago, [April] seems reasonably disastrous, but if you add together March and April, you’ll see it’s a pretty normal trend,” said Donald Soares, principal in CapGemini’s retail practice.

The average same-store sales figures for the three sectors tracked by WWD changed significantly when the monthly figures were averaged. Department stores’ average same-store sales for the two months increased 2 percent, versus a decline of 4.7 percent in April and a gain of 8.6 percent in March. Mass merchants posted an average comps gain of 1.5 percent for the combined period versus a decline in April of 3.6 percent and an increase in March of 6.6 percent.

Specialty stores struggled by comparison this spring, posting average same-store sales for the two-month period of negative 0.3 percent. The figure is still better than the 7.8 percent average decline reported in April. March comps were up 7.1 percent for the sector.

“The more important story is the trend over the last two months or even the last three months. Over the last three months, for example, year-over-year comp-store sales growth averaged 2 percent per month, which is exactly half of the pace the industry experienced during the same period in 2006,” Michael Niemira, chief economist and director of research, International Council of Shopping Centers, said in a release.

On a two-month basis, apparel did pretty well, said Deborah Weinswig, managing director and retail analyst, Citigroup. Despite industry speculation that April’s gloomy figures were an indicator of something larger at play than just weather and holiday trends, Weinswig said she didn’t see anything to be concerned about in consumer spending just yet. “A lot of retailers misread Easter,” Weinswig said, which lead to shock in March and disappointment in April.

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