SURVEY SEES MARCH SALES RISING

NEW YORK — February’s retail momentum is spilling into March.
According to the Schroder Wertheim/Mitsubishi Bank weekly survey of 50 U.S. chains issued Tuesday, same-store sales are likely to leap an average of 6 percent to 6.5 percent this month at the nation’s leading retailers. Schroder predicted healthy sales of spring apparel, especially better goods. Business will be spurred by an earlier Easter this year, which falls on April 7, as opposed to April 16 last year. That change could lift March sales by as much as 2 to 3 percentage points on average, the investment bank projected.
In addition, “inventories are lean across the industry, which has positive implications for gross margins,” Schroder analyst Linda Kristiansen noted in the report. At the same time, the report showed same-store sales for the week ended March 9 grew 2.7 percent. The uptick is the second largest in the last 10 weeks, after the 2.9 percent increase in the seven days ended Feb. 24.
Most retailers reported sales were running ahead of plan before bad weather dampened business over the weekend.
“We continue to look for strong industry sales momentum through at least the spring season,” Kristiansen said.
Women’s sportswear was one of the strongest performers at Mervyn’s, where comp-store sales rose 5 percent last week, on plan, and at Dayton Hudson’s department stores, where comps fell 2 percent, also on plan.
Apparel sales picked up at Wal-Mart’s discount stores, with ladies plus sizes exceeding the overall same-store gain of 7 percent. At J.C. Penney, women’s apparel was the fourth strongest sector, after children’s, men’s and home goods.
Sears’ apparel sales have softened and are now growing in the low single-digits overall, while moderate apparel sales have improved at May Department Stores Co. Sears’ comps were up 5 percent last week, and May’s rose 6 percent. Both chains made plan.
— Fairchild News Service

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