Retail Springs up for Easter

Apr 12, 2002
George Anderson

U.S. retailers’ same-store sales had their biggest gain in almost two years last month, helped by an early Easter, reports Bloomberg News. Consumers bought home decorations, spring clothing and candy at merchants including Wal-Mart Stores Inc. They also gave department stores and some clothing retailers another try during March, lifting sales for many of the nation’s biggest retailers, reports the Associated Press. Still, retailers say an expected boost from the Easter holiday was muted by unseasonably cool weather and shoppers’ continued reluctance to splurge.

Some analysts are heartened by a slight improvement for some major department store operators including Saks Inc., Federated Department Stores Inc. and J.C. Penney Co. Inc. Mall-based apparel retailer Limited Inc. posted gains that exceeded Wall Street estimates.

Department stores and many apparel chains have suffered for months, losing market share to discounters such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Target. “The story line is still there. Discounters are still the dominant force,” says Michael P. Niemira, vice president of Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi Ltd. “But the business among certain department stores is looking better.”

Sales rose 6.5 percent in March, according to the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi. Wal-Mart, the largest retailer, led the increase with a 9.5 percent gain. J.C. Penney Co.’s department stores reported a better-than-expected 6.8 percent increase, helped by demand for children’s apparel.

Moderator Comment: Will retailers be able to maintain
strong comparable store sales growth for the rest of the year?

The American consumer (and economy) has proven to be
amazingly resilient. Last year’s dismal performance isn’t hurting year-to-year
comparisons either. [George Anderson – Moderator]

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