By  on January 9, 2014

Unresponsive consumers combined with an uncooperative calendar to leave retailers with December sales that fell below estimates and further pressured their fourth-quarter profits.

Thomson Reuters put the median increase for firm’s reporting December results Thursday at 2.4 percent, excluding drug stores, slightly better than the 1.9 percent median increase expected. Yet, every apparel retailer on the list missed the consensus estimate of analysts. The “misses” by the two teen retailers on the list, Zumiez Inc., down 2.4 percent versus a projected 1.6 percent gain, and The Buckle Inc., down 2.8 percent versus a projected 0.9 percent gain, were among the largest.

The compressed seasonal calendar and widespread inclement weather during the month left them with fewer days to make their seasonal sales and many failed to reach either their goals or Wall Street’s expectations. Widespread promotions helped to ease inventory pressures but exacted a heavy toll on the bottom line, with a number of stores, including L Brands Inc. and Zumiez, bringing down profit expectations for the final quarter of most retailers’ fiscal years.

L Brands, expected by analysts polled by Thomson Reuters to post a 3.7 percent increase in comparable sales last month, instead reported a 2 percent increase, with Victoria’s Secret, expected to comp up 3.7 percent, was up 2 percent. The Columbus, Ohio-based retailer now expects fourth-quarter profits of about $1.60 a diluted share versus prior estimates for EPS of between $1.67 and $1.82.


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