With March comparable-store sales dreary, but better than expected, investor enthusiasm for retail shares continued to blossom.

This story first appeared in the April 10, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

However, the shout-out to retail wasn’t universal. Marsico Capital Management, which had been Saks Inc.’s second largest shareholder, reported in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it had relinquished almost all its holdings in the luxury retailer.

The S&P Retail Index rose 14.41 points, or 4.6 percent, to 328.79, marking a total rise of 4.7 percent for the trading week, which will be cut short by one day because of Good Friday. This marked the fifth consecutive week that the S&P Retail Index had registered an advance. Retail shares gained 4.5 percent on Wednesday after a decline on Tuesday.

Stock spikes in the face of comp declines, like Saks’ 28.8 percent gain to $2.82, were fairly commonplace. Nordstrom Inc.’s stock rose 17.4 percent to $21.91 despite a 13.5 percent comp decline, and shares of Macy’s Inc. increased 15.1 percent to $11.88 despite a 9.2 percent comp decline.

Among the specialty stores, shares of Abercrombie & Fitch Co. dipped 3.5 percent to $24.76 after comps fell 34 percent. Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s stock also dropped 3.7 percent to $50.66 after the discount and club giant posted a lower-than-expected 1.4 percent comp gain.

But most retail stocks were on the upswing, including Zale Corp., ahead 19.4 percent to $4.19, and Aéropostale Inc., rising 12.3 percent to $30.22. Aéropostale’s comps rose 3 percent; Zale does not report.

In its report to the SEC, Denver-based Marsico reported that it owns just 609 shares of Saks, down from 20.2 million shares, or 14.3 percent of those outstanding, as of Dec. 31. The dates of sale weren’t included in the filing, but 13.8 million Saks shares were sold for $1.50 each on March 10 and only Marsico and Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim Helú had large enough holdings to execute such a trade. The $1.50 marked a 52-week low versus a corresponding high of $14.58, reached May 16.

As of Feb. 20, Slim Helú held 25.6 million Saks shares, about 18.6 percent of those outstanding.


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