Limited shines in January

New York City -- The nation’s apparel retailers reported mixed results for January as shoppers remain cautious about spending in the uncertain economy.

“It was as tough month as retailers battled holiday hangover, lack of incentive to shop and mild winter that killed outerwear clearance," said Ken Perkins, president of RetailMetrics Inc., in a Reuters report.

As the first month of the year, January accounts for only 20% November-January sales, and 7% of annual sales, according to RetailMetrics.

Limited Brands continued to outperform, reporting a 9% gain in same-store sales in January that was well above the 2.7% that analysts expected. The chain’s total sales climbed 2.6% to $774.5 million. Limited said it now expects fourth quarter earnings to be at the high end of its prior guidance.

Gap Inc. said its same-store sales fell 4%, which was better than estimates for a 5.1% decline. Total sales fell 1.2% to $833 million. Gap CEO Glenn Murphy said he was pleased by the company’s performance in a “clearance-based” month focused on unloading leftover holiday inventory.

“As we transition to a new year, our teams are focused on making the necessary steps to improve our business performance in 2012,” Murphy said.

In other same-store results for January:

  • Zumiez Inc. said its sales rose 10.8%, well above expectations.
  • The Buckle reported a 7.4%, just below estimates for 7.5%. Total sales grew 10.9% to $50.3 million.
  •  Cato Corp.’s sales fell 6%, but the company issued slightly higher guidance for the coming quarter. CEO John Cato said in a statement that sales at the end of the month were hurt "by the timing of tax refunds," but he didn't offer further explanation.