Late Easter Really Boosts Retail Sales Data (COST, TGT, BJ, LTD, JWN, M, ARO, ZUMZ, HOTT)

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Even though the month of April was one selling day shorter than March, the late Easter holiday more than made up for the shortfall at most retailers. The Thomson Reuters index of sales at chain stores called for a sales increase of 8.2% over March sales.

Same-store sales at Costco Wholesale Corp. (NASDAQ: COST) rose 12% in April, better than the forecast 8.9%. Excluding gasoline, sales rose 6%, again better than estimates of 4.3%.

Target Corp. (NYSE: TGT) reported same-store sales rose by 13.1%, a huge change from last year when sales were down -5.9% for the month of April. The company had been expecting somewhat better performance, and noted customer spending was still cautious. Year-to-date sales are up 2%, compared with last year’s mark of 2.8%.

BJ’s Wholesale Club, Inc. (NYSE: BJ) posted a same-store sales boost of 4.1%, excluding gasoline sales. The number was below analysts’ estimates of 4.9%.

Clothing retailer Limited Brands, Inc. (NYSE: LTD) crushed sales growth expectations of 12.2%, posting a 20% jump in April sales. The company also raised its outlook from a range of $0.26-$0.31, to a new range of $0.37-$0.39, excluding items.

Nordstrom Inc. (NYSE: JWN) posted a same-store sales gain of 7.6%, lower than expectations of 8.1%.

Macy’s Inc. (NYSE: M) reported a same-store boost of 10.8%, compared with expectations of an 8.1% gain. The company also noted a jump of more than 50% in online sales for the month and a 38% boost in the first quarter. Online sales contributed 1.3% of the same-store sales boost of 5.4% for the first quarter of 2011.

There was also some bad news. Teen retailer Aeropostale Inc. (NYSE: ARO) cut its first-quarter profit forecast from $0.35-$0.38 to around $0.20. The company blamed the cut on poor sales and margins. Analysts were expecting EPS of $0.37. Same-store sales for the quarter fell -7%, compared with a gain of 8% in April 2010.

Zumiez Inc. (NASDAQ: ZUMZ) posted a same-store sales gain of 17.5%, beating expectations of a 14% jump. Another teen retailer, Hot Topic Inc. (NASDAQ: HOTT) sales rose 10.5%, much better than estimates of 3.4%.

The good sales report haven’t moved stocks much in the pre-open, with Limited Brands and Macy’s up less than 1%. Aeropostale is down nearly -10%, to $22.99 in a 52-week range of $21.26-$31.31.

Paul Ausick