NEW YORK (CNN/Money) -
Wal-Mart Stores and other retailers struggled to win over consumers last month, reports showed Thursday, as the war in Iraq, unseasonable cold weather, and concerns about job losses took a toll on sales.
Many retailers also blamed a calendar shift for weak sales. The Easter holiday, which affects the marketing cycles for clothes, shifted from March to April this year.
Companies in this roundup
Big Lots; Costco; Dollar General; Federated; Footstar;
Gap Inc.; Gymboree; J.C. Penney; Kohl's;
Limited; May Department Stores; Michaels Stores;
ShopKo; Talbots; Target;
Sears; Stage Stores; Wal-Mart
The nation's largest clothing retailer said March same-store sales rose 9 percent as increased marketing efforts helped offset cool weather, economic uncertainty and a late Easter.
Gap Inc. (GPS: Research, Estimates) said total sales for the five weeks ended April 5 were $1.4 billion, up 13 percent from $1.2 billion in the same period a year earlier.
The San Francisco-based company Gap, which operates more than 4,200 Gap, Banana Republic and Old Navy stores, posted its sixth straight month of same-store sales growth following a 29-month slide. Same-store sales fell 12 percent in March 2002.
The world's largest retailer posted a slight increase in March same-store sales, as consumers stayed home to watch war developments in Iraq and a late April Easter holiday hurt comparisons with a year earlier.
Wal-Mart (WMT: Research, Estimates) said same-store sales edged up only 0.7 percent in the five weeks ended April 4. The company had been forecasting the percentage growth in same-store sales to be in the low single digits. Overall sales rose 7.8 percent to $23.2 billion in the period.
The Goodlettsville, Tenn.-based retailer said March sales rose 4.2 percent at stores open at least a year, outperforming most other retailers, as store traffic increased.
Dollar General (DG: Research, Estimates) said total sales for the five weeks ended April 4 rose 12.9 percent to $602.5 million.
The company said a month ago it expected March same-store sales to rise 3 percent-to-5 percent, with total sales up 11 percent-to-13 percent.
Dollar General also said it expected same-store sales to rise 3 percent-to-6 percent in April and total sales to rise 11 percent-to- 14 percent.
The retailer said March sales at stores open at least a year fell 4 percent from a year earlier as cool weather, a U.S. economy clouded by war, and a late Easter gave consumers little reason to visit malls.
Columbus, Ohio-based Limited (LTD: Research, Estimates), which operates several store chains including Victoria's Secret, Express, and Bath & Body Works, said net sales in the five weeks ended April 5 fell to $690.1 million from $693.7 million last year.
The parent of Macy's and Bloomingdale's posted a 6.5 percent drop in March sales at stores open at least one year, hurt by attention on the war in Iraq and cold weather. The retailer said total sales for the five-week period ended April 5 totaled $1.23 billion, down 5.9 percent from a year ago.
The Cincinnati-based retailer had expected March same-store sales, a measure of sales at stores open at least a year, to fall 6 or 7 percent, below its earlier forecast of a 3 or 4 percent decline.
Federated (FD: Research, Estimates) also said it expected April sales to be lower than previously expected, but stood by its forecast of 14 to 19 cents a share in first-quarter earnings.
The discount retailer said March sales at stores open at least a year fell 2.3 percent, and predicted it is unlikely to meet its profit plan in the first quarter.
The company, which owns its namesake discount stores and the Marshall Field and Mervyn's department stores, said total sales for the five-week period ended April 5 were $3.89 billion, up 4.6 percent from a year earlier.
Sales at Target (TGT: Research, Estimates) locations open at least a year, or same-store sales, rose 6.1 percent.
The largest U.S. department store chain reported its 19th straight monthly decline in sales at stores open at least a year.
Sears (S: Research, Estimates), the No. 4 U.S. retailer, said March same-store sales fell 3.1 percent in the five weeks ended April 5. Total sales for the period fell 2.3 percent to $2.40 billion.
The warehouse club chain said March sales at stores open at least a year rose 8.0 percent from a year ago. Total sales in the five-week period ended April 6 were $3.88 billion compared with $3.46 billion a year earlier, the Issaquah, Wash.-based retailer said.
Last month, Costco (COST: Research, Estimates) maintained its profit forecast of 30-to-32 cents a share for the second half of the fiscal year even after second-quarter results fell short of Wall Street expectations. The warehouse sector, which in addition to Costco includes Wal-Mart Stores's Sam's Club and BJ's Wholesale, has been fiercely competitive of late.
May Department Stores
The department store chain said March sales at stores open at least a year fell 11.4 percent as a U.S. economy clouded by war and a late Easter gave consumers little reason to shop.
May (MAY: Research, Estimates) said its preliminary net sales for the 5 weeks ending April 5 fell 9.9 percent to $1.06 million.
Kohl's Corp. reported March sales at stores open at least a year rose 0.4 percent.
The retailer, which runs a fast-growing chain of mid-priced department stores, said total sales in the five-week period ended April 5 reached $913.5 million, up 21.7 percent from the same month a year ago.
Sales at its department stores open at least a year fell 5.5 percent, and it forecast lower-than-expected first-quarter sales and earnings. Citing economic conditions and the geopolitical environment, the Plano, Texas-based retailer expects first-quarter earnings per share in the range of 18-to-23 cents compared with the average forecast of analysts of 32 cents per share, according to tracking firm First Call.
Sales for the first nine weeks of the quarter have been below plan, the company said, and while April sales should benefit from the so-called "Easter shift," it still sees sales lower than originally expected. Earlier this week, the company said it expected April sales to be flat. The Easter holiday is on April 20 this year, about three weeks later than last year, shifting demand from March into April. Many retailers warned that this would bruise March sales.
Penney, which operates Eckerd drugstores as well as its namesake department stores, said total sales for the five-week period ended March 29 fell 4.2 percent to $2.84 billion. Same-store drugstore sales fell 3 percent, hurt by the weak economy and continued softness from travel to the Florida markets, the company said. J.C. Penney (JCP: Research, Estimates) had expected same-store sales at its department stores to be flat-to-slightly lower compared with last year. In March, the best-performing merchandise categories at J.C. Penney's department stores were fine jewelry, juniors, and missy casual sportswear.
The apparel retailer said March sales at stores open at least a year rose 0.8 percent, better than the company expected but still dampened by the shift of Easter into the April selling period this year.
The company, based in Hingham, Mass., and best known for conservative women's clothing, said total sales for the five weeks ended April 5 rose 6 percent to $187.1 million. Talbots (TLB: Research, Estimates) said it expects earnings of 48-to-51 cents a share in the first quarter, down from 57 cents a year earlier. The company said a month ago that it expected lower profit in the quarter.
The close-out retailer said sales at stores open at least two years fell 1.4 percent in March from a year ago as a later Easter this year is shifting sales into April.
Columbus, Ohio-based Big Lots (BLI: Research, Estimates) said total sales for the five weeks ended April 5 rose 2.3 percent to $351.9 million from $344.0 million a year ago.
The children's clothing retailer reported March same-store sales fell 2 percent, but backed Wall Street earnings forecasts for the first quarter and rest of the year. The Burlington, Calif.-based company said total sales for the five weeks ended April 5 edged up to $56.8 million from $56.6 million from the same period a year ago, helped by what it called a "strong, positive" response to its Easter holiday and summer products.
The company reiterated an earnings forecast of 22-to-24 cents per share for the first quarter, and 92 cents-to-$1 per share for fiscal 2003. The expectations were in line with those of analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call.
Gymboree (GYMB: Research, Estimates) also forecast a second-quarter loss of 4-to-2 cents per share and a third-quarter profit of 33-to-35 cents per share. For the fourth-quarter, the company expected earnings of 41 cents to 43 cents per share. The forecasts also were in line with Wall Street's.
The shoe retailer said sales at stores open at least a year fell 5.3 percent in the first quarter, hurt in part by the shift of Easter into the April selling period this year.
Footstar (FTS: Research, Estimates), based in West Nyack, N.Y., said total sales for the 13-week period ended March 29 fell 12.9 percent to $482.1 million.
The specialty and discount grocer reported a 5.3 percent drop in March sales at stores open at least a year, or same-store sales, and said it expected its first-quarter results to hit the low end of its previous target of breakeven to a loss of 5 cents a share.
The Green Bay, Wis.-based retailer said current economic conditions create an environment of uncertainty, making forecasting the future "somewhat difficult." Nonetheless, ShopKo (SKO: Research, Estimates) said it anticipates April same-store sales to reflect growth in a mid-single digit range on a percentage basis, helped by a calendar shift which will transfer Easter sales into April instead of March.
Total sales in the five-week March selling period ended April 5 were $268.1 million, down 8.6 percent from $293.2 million reported a year ago, the company said.
The nation's largest arts and crafts retailer said March sales at stores open at least a year were flat, with strongest sales in frames, ribbons and general crafts.
The Irving, Texas-based retailer said total March sales increased 7 percent to $253.4 million.
The company said March sales at stores open at least a year fell 15.6 percent, hurt by a weak economy and the military conflict with Iraq. Stage (STGS: Research, Estimates), based in Houston, said total sales in the five-week period ended April 6 fell 12.5 percent, to $73 million from $83.4 million a year earlier.
The company said it expects same-store sales for the first quarter to be down 6 to 8 percent. Stage also forecast first-quarter net income of 71-to-75 cents a share, down from 82 cents a year earlier.
-- Reuters contributed to this story.