BACK ON THE BEAT: More than two-thirds of the retailers tracked by Thomson Reuters exceeded analysts’ estimates for January comparable-store sales — 68 percent, versus just 44 percent in December — and the 4.2 percent jump among all stores beat both the 2.7 percent estimate for the month and the 3.3 percent rise for January 2010.
BEST IN CLASS: Limited Brands Inc. took top honors among retailers reporting results Thursday with a 24 percent comp gain led by a 35 percent pickup at the Victoria’s Secret unit. Limited’s corporate performance was nearly quadruple the 6.7 percent increase analysts expected, and the VS division’s gain was more than three times the 11 percent estimated. Limited’s Bath & Body Works was up 9 percent, a fact lost in the excitement over the double-digit rise of its older sister. VS was hardly a beneficiary of weak year-ago performance — its January 2010 comps were up 17 percent.
NOT-SO-GOOD RIDDANCE: Three teen retailers preparing to discontinue monthly comp reports hardly distinguished themselves in their final filings. American Eagle Outfitter Inc.’s 6 percent decline was the worst number reported by any retailer, and Abercrombie & Fitch Co.’s 4 percent drop was more than twice the 1.9 percent dip penciled in. Aéropostale Inc., with a 1 percent gain, outperformed expectations of a 2.9 percent drop, but it wasn’t sufficient to keep teen apparel from emerging as the weakest category covered, with a sectoral decline of 2 percent.
NO EXCUSES: The two largest U.S.-based off-price chains, The TJX Cos. Inc. and Ross Stores Inc., were up 12 and 8 percent, respectively, in January 2010, setting them up for an easy “up against strong numbers” alibi. Instead, they came through with increases of 2 and 3 percent.