January Retail Sales Overshadowed by Special Dividend Payments

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Retailers are scheduled to announce January U.S. same-store sales figures Thursday. Research firm Retail Metrics projected an overall gain of 3.1% year-over-year. In January of 2014, retail same-store sales rose 3.3%.

Retail Metrics has also indicated that fourth quarter earnings guidance has been trending more positive than in any of the previous five quarters. The major news story, however, is a widely expected bankruptcy filing from RadioShack. Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) is said to be in discussions to acquire the leases to about half of RadioShack’s locations. We may have more by the end of Thursday.

Rite Aid Inc. (NYSE: RAD) previously reported same-store sales growth of 4.8%. Pharmacy sales gains at Rite Aid came in at 5.7%. Front-end sales rose 2.9%. Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. (NYSE: WBA) is expected to report a same-store sales gain of 6% on Friday, with growth of 9.5% in pharmacy sales and 2% in front-end sales.

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The number of retailers reporting same-store sales has declined significantly over the past few years, but the reported numbers do provide a kind of interim report on quarterly performance at the country’s retail stores. Here is a rundown on stores that have reported sales for January.

Costco Wholesale Corp. (NASDAQ: COST) reported early Wednesday morning that U.S. same-store sales for January were flat with last year. Excluding the negative impact from gasoline sales, sales rose 7% in the United States. Net sales for January totaled $8.6 billion, up 2% over January 2014’s total of $7.99 billion. The big news from Costco is its previously announced $5 per share special dividend.

Costco shares traded down 3.1% in Thursday’s premarket session, at $151.08. The stock’s 52-week range is $110.360 to $156.85. The high was posted on Wednesday.

L Brands Inc. (NYSE: LB) said same-store sales for January rose 7% compared with last year. Retail Metrics had estimated a rise of 2%. L Brands operates Victoria’s Secret, Pink, Bath & Body Works, La Senza and Henri Bendel stores. Net sales rose 7% to $783.1 billion in January. The store also announced an annual dividend hike from $1.36 to $2.00 a share, a special dividend of $2 a share and a new $250 million share buyback program.

L Brands shares were inactive Thursday morning, after closing at $87.06 on Wednesday. The stock’s 52-week range is $52.68 to $87.80. The high was posted Wednesday.

Buckle Inc. (NYSE: BKE) reported same-store sales for January rose 0.8%, compared with the same month a year ago. The Retail Metrics estimate called for a rise of 2.8%. Net sales for all stores rose 3.6% and totaled $58.9 million for the month.

Buckle’s shares closed Wednesday up 1.2%, at $52.27 in a 52-week range of $41.96 to $56.13. Shares were inactive Thursday morning.

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Stein Mart Inc. (NASDAQ: SMRT) reported a 6.6% increase in same-store sales for January, well above the 3.6% growth estimate from Retail Metrics. Total sales for January came in at $69.7 million, up 8.2% from a year ago. The company announced on Wednesday that it will pay a special dividend of $5 a share later this month.

Stein Mart’s shares jumped about more than 20% in Thursday’s premarket to $17.10. The stock’s 52-week range is $11.25 to $15.45. There is nothing like a special dividend to attract buyers.