March sales stronger than expected

New York City -- Shoppers surprised analysts in March by spending stronger than expected during the month, despite rising gas prices, cooler-than-normal temperatures and a late Easter. The Thomson Reuters Same-Store Sales Index rose 1.7% in March, beating estimates, which called for a decrease of 0.7%.

Same-store sales figures released Thursday by many of the nation’s retailers showed solid spending growth, with only a few exceptions. From Costco Wholesale Corp. to Limited Brands’ boost by a powerful Victoria’s Secret showing in March, a broad range of retailers posted better-than-expected revenue gains.

In the specialty apparel sector, Zumiez shone with a 15.1% overall sales gain to $41.2 million and a same-store sales increase of 8.9%, which more than doubled Wall Street’s expectations of a 4.1% rise.  Limited Brands was also a big winner in March, recording a same-store sales rise of 13% overall, boosted by its Victoria’s Secret banner which posted a 19% same-store sales gain.

Gap didn’t fare as well, as same-store sales decreased 10%.

Other specialty apparel results included:

  • Buckle posted an 8.4% increase in same-store sales.
  • Hot Topic same-store sales decreased 5%, but beat expectations of a 6.2% decrease;
  • Wet Seal same-store sales rose 4.7%;
  • Bebe Stores edged down 0.7%; and
  • Cato same-store sales dropped 9%.