March Retail Sales Weaker on Weather and Late Easter

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Retailers are announcing March U.S. same-store sales figures Thursday. Research firm Retail Metrics projected an overall gain of 2.5% year-over-year. Retail sales gained just 1.4% in March of 2013, excluding drug store sales. Including drug stores, March same-store sales are forecast to rise 3.1%.

Continuing cold weather in many parts of the country held down March sales, and a late Easter holiday (April 20) compared with last Easter (March 31) will push sales into this month.

Retail Metrics noted that teen apparel stores are expected to see a drop of 6% in same-store sales for the month. Home improvement stores like Home Depot Inc. (NYSE: HD) and Lowe’s Companies Inc. (NYSE: LOW) are expected to be the best performers with same-store sales up 5%.

Here is a rundown on stores that have reported sales:

Costco Wholesale Corp. (NASDAQ: COST) reported quarterly earnings and same-store sales Thursday morning. Including gasoline, sales for March rose 5% compared with March 2013. That is higher than the Retail Metrics estimate for a gain of 3.3%, including gasoline sales. Excluding negative impacts from lower gasoline sales, Costco posted same-store sales growth of 7% for the month. In the United States alone, March sales came in 6% higher, both including and excluding gasoline. Net sales for the month totaled $10.43 billion.

L Brands Inc. (NYSE: LB) said same-store sales for March fell 1% compared with last year. Retail Metrics had estimated a decline of 1.7%. L Brands operates Victoria’s Secret, Pink, Bath & Body Works, La Senza and Henri Bendel stores. Net sales rose 3% to $923.7 million in March.

Buckle Inc. (NYSE: BKE) reported same-store sales for March fell 1.8% compared with the same period a year ago. The Retail Metrics estimate called for a drop of 2.7%. Net sales totaled $106.6 million for the month and were essentially flat with last year.

Stein Mart Inc. (NASDAQ: SMRT) reported a 0.9% increase in same-store sales for March, well below the 2.7% positive growth estimate from Retail Metrics. In March of last year, sales rose 7.9%. Total sales for March came in at $136.3 million, compared with sales of $135.4 million in March 2013.

Zumiez Inc. (NASDAQ: ZUMZ) posted a same-store sales decrease of 2.9% for March. Retail Metrics estimated a drop of 4%. Last February the company posted a gain of 2.1% in same-store sales. Total sales for the month were $63.6 million, up 4.3% over March of 2013.

Costco shares were up 1.3% in Thursday’s premarket to $114.50. The stock’s 52-week range is $103.20 to $126.12.

L Brands shares were inactive in Thursday’s premarket, having closed Monday at $58.88, in a 52-week range of $47.78 to $67.12.

Stein Mart shares closed at $13.75 Wednesday, in a 52-week range of $7.44 to $16.17, and were inactive Thursday morning.

Zumiez shares were inactive in the premarket, having closed Wednesday down 0.4% at $24.88, in a 52-week range of $20.68 to $33.50.

Buckle’s shares closed at $45.68 Wednesday, in a 52-week range of $41.45 to $56.32, and were inactive Thursday morning.

SEE ALSO: Amazon’s Aggressive Easter Sales