Modest gains for retailers in February, led by Costco and Limited Brands

New York -- Costco Wholesale Corp., Limited Brands and TJX Cos. on Thursday reported better-than-expected sales for February, as growing employment and a surging stock market apparently offset the impact of higher taxes. (Some analysts cautioned, however, that the monthly figures have become less influential as an economic indicator as the number of retailers reporting on a monthly basis has dropped considerable. As of this month, Target and Kohl’s are no longer reporting monthly sales.)

Overall, 15 retailers reported on Thursday that same-store sales rose 1.7%, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers.

Costco posted a 6% rise in same-store sales, helped by higher gasoline prices and strong sales of fresh food and consumer electronics. Wall Street analysts were expecting a 5.1% increase.

At Limited Brands reported a 3% increase in same-store sales, ahead of the 2.6% predicted increase. The metric rose 5% at Victoria's Secret stores and was unchanged at Bath & Body Works. It rose 5% at La Senza, Limited's Canadian lingerie store chain.

TJX Cos. Said that its February same-store sales rose 1%, topping Wall Street expectations of a 0.4% rise. CEO Carol Meyrowitz said that strong sales toward the end of the month helped the company achieve its better-than-expected same-store revenue.  The European businesses also continued to show strength.

But some retailers disappointed in February.

Ross Stores Inc. that its February same-store sales fell 1%, missing the 1.1% increase analysts had forecast.

"We believe the slight decline in February same store sales was mainly due to the delay in income tax refunds," said CEO Michael Balmuth. "With sales improving as the month progressed, we continue to forecast same store sales in March and April to be down 1% to 2% and up 5% to 6%, respectively." 

Teen fave Zumiez Inc. said that its same-store sales dropped 8.9% in February. Wall Street expected a 1.9 % decline.

In other February same-store sales results:

  • The Buckle reported a drop of 1.1%, and
  • Stein Mart reported an increase of 0.6%.