updated 6/2/2005 11:27:04 AM ET 2005-06-02T15:27:04

The nation’s retailers had generally solid sales last month, overcoming the effects of an unusually cold spring as consumers became more optimistic about the economy and more willing to spend.

Major Market Indices

As merchants began reporting their May results Thursday, the big winners were luxury stores such as Nordstrom Inc. and teen retailers including Bebe Stores Inc. and Abercrombie & Fitch Co. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world’s largest retailer, reported sales that matched analysts’ modest estimates.

Not all retailers escaped the impact of the unseasonably cool weather. Federated Department Stores Inc. and BJ’s Wholesale Club Inc. had disappointing sales amid lower demand for such seasonal items as swimwear and air conditioners.

Still, the overall upbeat results were encouraging, especially since they followed a report earlier this week of an unexpected rebound in consumer confidence in May.

“By and large, it was a solid month, despite adverse weather conditions. Consumers are starting to feel a little better. The daily humdrum of higher gasoline and oil prices abated in May, which contributed to the consumer psyche,” said Ken Perkins, president of RetailMetrics LLC, a research firm in Swampscott, Mass.

Perkins noted 61 percent of the 68 retailers he monitored beat expectations for May; 37 percent missed. The remainder matched forecasts.

The International Council of Shopping Centers-UBS sales preliminary sales tally of 68 stores rose 2.9 percent, at the low end of its 3 percent to 3.5 percent range, but Michael P. Niemira, chief economist at the trade association, said the “numbers are holding up.”

“The overall story hasn’t changed. Consumers continue to spend, though unevenly,” he said. The sales tally is based on sales at stores open at least a year, known as same-store sales.

Perkins warned that Americans’ moderate spending pace could still slip as they spend more on gas during the summer driving season. He also noted that the job market remains shaky, and said signs of an overall economic slowdown could make consumers more hesitant about spending freely.

May’s sales results were in line with the 3.1 percent increase of the March-April period, though a bit below the 4.1 percent average seen in January and February.

“It’s softer than what we saw in the beginning of the year, but not dramatically,” Niemira said.

Wal-Mart — whose core consumer is the most vulnerable to the economy’s woes — again reported modest same-store sales gains of 2.5 percent. Wall Street analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial had forecast a 2.5 percent gain.

Discount rival Target Corp., whose trendy merchandise appeals to a higher-income consumer, reported a 5.1 percent gain in same-store sales, beating the 4.5 percent analyst forecast. Total sales rose 12.1 percent.

Costco Wholesale Corp. had a 5 percent increase in same-store sales, better than the 4.4 percent estimate. Total sales rose 8 percent.

But BJ’s reported a slim 0.5 percent gain in same-store sales, below the 2.8 percent estimate. Total sales rose 4.7 percent.

“Cold, wet weather throughout the month negatively affected sales in more than half the chain,” said BJ’s President and CEO Mike Wedge.

TJX, citing unseasonably cold and rainy weather, had a disappointing 1 percent decline in same-store sales, worse than the 1 percent gain Wall Street predicted. Total sales rose 5 percent, and TJX said sales remained strong where the weather was seasonable.

Limited Brands Inc. had a 1 percent decrease in same-store sales, better than the 2.7 percent decline Wall Street expected. Total sales rose 4.9 percent.

Talbots Inc. had a 4.1 percent gain in same-store sales, better than the 3.4 percent estimate. Total sales rose 11 percent.

Abercrombie & Fitch had a 29 percent in same-store sales, surpassing the 13.9 percent forecast. Total sales rose 43 percent.

Bebe’s same-store sales soared 40.3 percent, much higher than the 24 percent increase forecast. Total sales rose 54.5 percent.

Nordstrom had a 7.4 percent gain in same-store sales for the month, exceeding the 4.0 percent estimate. Total sales rose 9.3 percent.

J.C. Penney Co. Inc. posted a 3.5 percent same-store sales gain in department stores, beating the 2.0 percent forecast. Total sales rose 5.4 percent.

But Federated and May Department Stores Co., which plan to merge, struggled. May’s same-store sales fell 2.9 percent, worse than the 1.7 percent Wall Street expected. Total sales rose 14.5 percent.

Federated’s same-store sales rose 0.8 percent, weaker than the 1.8 percent forecast. Total sales rose 0.7 percent.

In the company’s news release, Terry J. Lundgren, Federated’s chairman, president and CEO, said there was weakness in sales of warm weather apparel such as swimwear and sandals in parts of the country where cool weather lingered.

Gap Inc. struggled with an 8 percent same-store sales decline, worse than the 3.3 percent Wall Street anticipated. Total sales fell 3 percent.

On Wednesday, Neiman Marcus Group Inc. said its same-store sales rose 11 percent, surpassing the 6.2 percent analyst forecast. Total sales rose 10.2 percent.

On Tuesday, Kohl’s Corp. said same-store sales edged up 0.2 percent, better than the 0.8 percent decline Wall Street projected. Total sales rose 10.2 percent.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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