Early Easter Hampered April Same-Store Sales

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Retailers are announcing April U.S. same-store sales figures Thursday. Research firm Retail Metrics projected that overall sales would be flat year-over-year, and there is a chance that April same-store sales will be lower compared with April 2014, the first time in nearly seven years that comparable sales will have declined. In April of 2014 retail same-store sales rose 6.2%.

The dim forecast for April sales is due in large part to timing of the Easter holiday, which came in March this year and pulled sales ahead. On the economic front, job growth is slowing; gasoline prices, though still much lower than a year ago, are rising; and consumer confidence is softening.

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 March:

Stein Mart Inc. (NASDAQ: SMRT) reported a 1.5% decrease in same-store sales for April, nearly twice as bad as the negative 0.8% estimate from Retail Metrics. Total sales for the month came in at $109.1 million, up 0.9% from a year ago. The company noted that same-store sales for the quarter ending in April rose 4.8% and that combined sales for the two months of March and April rose 5.6%, compared to sales in the same combined two-month period last year.

Stein Mart’s shares were inactive in Thursday’s premarket after closing Wednesday at $11.82. The stock’s 52-week range is $11.25 to $16.65.

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Costco Wholesale Corp. (NASDAQ: COST) reported April same-store sales, including gasoline sales and foreign exchange effects, were rose 2% in the United States and fell 4% internationally. Overall, same-store sales were flat in the month. Excluding gasoline and currency exchanges U.S. sales rose 7% and international sales rose 9%. On the same basis worldwide, sales in the quarter rose 7%. Net sales for the month totaled $8.75 billion, up 2% year-over-year. Retail Metrics had projected a same-store sales increase of 0.4% (5.1% excluding gasoline sales and foreign exchange effects).

Costco shares were also inactive in Thursday’s premarket session, after closing on Wednesday at $144.77. The stock’s 52-week range is $112.97 to $156.85.

L Brands Inc. (NYSE: LB) said same-store sales for April rose 1% compared with last year. Retail Metrics had estimated a decline of 0.1%. L Brands operates Victoria’s Secret, Pink, Bath & Body Works, La Senza and Henri Bendel stores. Net sales rose 1% to $724.6 million in April. The company said that the negative impact on sales due to the timing of the Easter holiday was approximately five points.

L Brands’ shares traded down fractionally Thursday morning to $90.81 after closing at $90.83 on Wednesday. The stock’s 52-week range is $53.03 to $95.78.

Rite Aid Inc. (NYSE: RAD) reported an April same-store sales hike of 3% compared with the same month a year ago. Front-end sales slipped 0.5% and pharmacy sales rose 4.6%, including a negative impact of 145 basis points due to the introduction of new generic drugs. Total sales rose 2.4% to $2.04 billion. Retail Metrics was looking for an overall jump of 2.3%, with pharmacy sales up 4.1% and front-end sales up 0.2%. Rite Aid reported these numbers on April 30.

Rite Aid shares traded up about 0.5% in Thursday’s premarket, at $7.85 in a 52-week range of $4.42 to $9.07.

Buckle Inc. (NYSE: BKE) reported same-store sales for April fell 3.8% compared with the same month a year ago. The Retail Metrics estimate called for sales to be down 47%. Net sales for all stores fell 1.7% and totaled $74.3 million for the month.

Buckle shares were also inactive and closed Wednesday up about 0.8% at $45.36, in a 52-week range of $41.96 to $56.13.

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