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May Comp Crux

Sales in March were helped by an early Easter and an early spring, and retailers gave back those benefits in a less seasonal, less holiday-laden April.

MAY IN THE MIDDLE: Sales in March were helped by an early Easter and an early spring, and retailers gave back those benefits — and perhaps a bit more — in a less seasonal, less holiday-laden April. May required no such explanation. Same-store sales advanced an average of 3.9 percent, comfortably above the 3.6 percent estimate provided by Thomson Reuters, and also fit comfortably in between the March and April results. All three retail categories tracked by WWD had average gains that fell in between the March and April results, and two-thirds of the brands covered by WWD had results that either fell in between the two prior months or, in the case of Costco, matched one of them.

ON THE BEAT: More than two-thirds of stores reporting Thursday beat estimates, with the largest upside “surprise” coming from teen retailer Zumiez Inc., which saw comps rise 13.7 percent versus an estimate of 6.6 percent. Off-pricers The TJX Cos. Inc. and Ross Stores Inc. duplicated each other, rising 8 percent versus expectations of 5.3 percent gains, while Stage Stores Inc. (up 8 percent versus an anticipated 2.2 percent pickup) and Stein Mart Inc. (3.1 percent versus the 0.5 percent boost expected) made less customary appearances on the list of top “beats.” The Buckle Inc. produced a rare disappointment, rising just 0.2 percent against the expected 3.3 percent pop.

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MIDYEAR CHALLENGE: Stores will be harder pressed to make their numbers this month. Last June, the average comp increased 7 percent, the second-strongest month of the year behind April. Thomson pegged year-to-date comps as ahead 4.8 percent, within the range of 3 to 5 percent recorded throughout 2011.