Stores struggled with the earlier timing of Easter in April, and most of those still reporting failed to lift their comparable sales into positive territory for the month.

L Brands Inc.’s stores were down 1 percent for the month, with Victoria’s Secret’s stores flat and Bath & Body Works down 2 percent. Thomson Reuters had expected corporate results to be flat, with both nameplates down less than 1 percent.

The company said the earlier timing of Easter – April 5 this year versus April 20 in 2014 – subtracted 5 points from April results, after benefitting those in March, and said it expected a low-single-digit increase in May.

It also raised first-quarter guidance for adjusted earnings to between 58 and 60 cents a share versus earlier expectations of between 50 and 55 cents.

The already soft figures for April, the end of most retailers’ first quarters, are likely to appear weaker next Monday when Gap Inc. reports. On average, analysts expected a 7.2 percent decline in monthly comps, with Gap brand down 10.6 percent and even the hot Old Navy nameplate trending down 4.9 percent.

Stein Mart Inc., which enjoyed an 11.2 percent comp increase in March, saw April’s fall 1.5 percent. The two months combined generated a 5.6 percent comp increase, better than the first-quarter comp rise of 4.8 percent.

Stein Mart said women’s apparel excelled during the first quarter while accessories were “more challenged.”

Cato Corp., down 14 percent, was expected to fall 6 percent. Taken together, comps for March and April were flat.

Neither of the two remaining teen retailers in the comp sample managed a positive result for the month. The Buckle Inc. was down 3.8 percent, versus an expected 3.3 percent decline. Zumiez Inc., reporting late Wednesday, was down 4 percent in April, more than twice the 1.5 percent dip expected.

Analysts had low expectations for April. The mean estimate for comps in the month is a 0.4 percent decline. Apparel retailers are seen dropping 4.1 percent, a figure reduced to a 0.6 percent decline when estimates for the Gap are excluded.


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