NEW YORK — Punxsutawney Phil may be better suited for predicting apparel same-store sales for February than he is at forecasting winter’s grip. On Wednesday, Phil saw his shadow, which, according to legend, means six more weeks of blustery weather — at least in the Northeast.

Meanwhile, an analysis by WWD examining softline comps for the past seven Februarys revealed an unusual correlation: When Phil saw his shadow, February softline comps fell, but when he didn’t, comps shot up. In predicting February comps, Phil has been right five out of the past seven years, well above his 40 percent rate at forecasting the length of winter.

Phil didn’t see his shadow on Groundhog Day in 1998 and ’99 and softline comps, as tracked by Bear Stearns & Co., showed gains of 5.7 and 7.8 percent, respectively. In 2000, Phil saw his shadow, but apparel comps rose 4.9 percent. For the next three years, when Phil saw his shadow, softline comps posted declines of 2.7, 2 and 2.3 percent. Last year he also saw his shadow and comps gained 9 percent. Today, retailers post January comps, which are expected to show a gain of 2 to 3 percent. February is anticipated to be weaker because of more challenging year-over-year comparisons.

Phil and February Comps

This story first appeared in the February 3, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.