Target falls short, but Macy’s, J.C. Penney and Kohl’s top estimates in February

New York City -- Sales at Macy’s, J.C. Penney and Kohl’s surpassed analysts’ estimates in February amid gradually moderating temperatures and rising consumer confidence. However, analysts warned that a late Easter and rising gasoline prices could impact sales going forward.

Confidence among U.S. consumers rose in February to the highest level in three years, according to a Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan index, as a drop in unemployment helped overcome concern over rising food and fuel costs.

Target fell short of expectations. The chain said Thursday its same-store sales rose 1.8% for February, missing analyst expectations for a 2.2% increase.

Target said more than half of its February same store sales gain was driven by an increase in transactions combined with a small increase in the average transaction size. Sales rose more than average in California, South Florida and the Mid-Atlantic, but less than average in the Midwest, the Carolinas and the Northeast. Grocery and clothing sales rose while home products and electronics sales fell. The chain's total revenue for the four weeks that ended Feb. 26 rose 2.4% to $4.75 billion.

“Target’s February comparable-store sales were in line with our expectations, as our REDcard Rewards and PFresh remodel programs continue to drive meaningful incremental sales and traffic in our stores,” said Target chairman, president and CEO Gregg Steinhafel.

The rewards program was launched last fall at stores nationwide and offers those who used Target branded credit and debit product 5% off all purchases.

Target expects March same-store sales to fall because Easter-related sales will be pushed to April, with Easter falling three weeks later. Other retailers also warned that the late Easter holiday would cut into March sales.

J. C. Penney Co. said that its same-store sales in February increased 6.4%, with women's apparel and accessories, children's apparel, and fine jewelry reporting the strongest results for the month.

Geographically, J.C. Penney said all regions experienced comparable-store sales gains, with the northeast and southwest regions delivering the best performances.

Macy’s reported a 5.8% increase in its Feburary same-store revenue, topping analysts’ estimates of a 3.7% increase. Macy’s results were boosted by strong growth in its online segment, which rose 30.9% in the month. 

“Our fiscal 2011 started off with a stronger-than-expected February performance at both Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s. Consumer reaction to new spring merchandise has been encouraging,” said Terry J. Lundgren, chairman, president and CEO of Macy’s.

Kohl’s said its sales increased 5.0%, topping the 4.1% increase analysts expected. Mens, womens and childrens were the top performers, registering high-single digit increases.

In other same-stores sales results for February: 

  • Saks’ sales jumped 15.3%, buoyed by strong sales of items such as shoes, handbags and men's and women's clothing. Its performance easily topped the 4.9% increase the Street expected.

  • TJX Cos. reported a 3% rise in sales on top of double-digit increases last year.

  • Nordstrom's sales were up 7.3%, easily beating Wall Street's expectation of a 4.2% increase. The figure climbed 9.6% for Nordstrom, which includes its stores and direct sales. The lower-price Nordstrom Rack division reported a 1.6% increase.

  • The Bon Ton reported a 0.5% decrease in sales as its key market areas were impacted by snowstorms.

  • Fred's said its sales rose 0.9%, below analysts' expectations for the discount store operator. The retailer said traffic earlier in the month was affected by harsh weather.

  • Duckwell-Alco reported a 3.1% rise in sales.