Warmer weather and improved macroeconomic conditions helped US clothing retailers to report strong comparable store sales in June

Warmer weather and improved macroeconomic conditions helped US clothing retailers to report strong comparable store sales in June

Same-store sales at US apparel retailers continued on an upward trajectory last month. June results saw the biggest gains since January, on the back of an improving labour market, better macroeconomic conditions, falling fuel prices, warmer weather and rising house prices.

Same-store sales increased 4.1% last month, according to research firm Retail Metrics, exceeding expectations by 20% and marking the single biggest monthly comparable increase since January, when same-store sales grew 5.1%.

Retail Metrics president Ken Perkins said retailers have recorded same-store sale gains for two consecutive months, after missing expectations from February to April "when retailers faced not only an economic soft patch but particularly adverse weather conditions".

The International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC), meanwhile, reported a 3.9% year-on-year increase for same-store sales in June. Excluding drug stores, same-store sales jumped 5.3% it said - the strongest gain since August, according to ICSC vice president of research and chief economist, Michael Niemira.

"Overall, these data continue to paint an improving picture after a 'softer' first quarter (February-April) and are encouraging as we move into the second fiscal quarter of the year," added Niemira.

Winners and losers
Specialty clothing retailer Gap Inc came out as the biggest winner in June after posting a 7% increase in comparable store sales. 

"We are pleased with our June sales results," said chairman and CEO Glenn Murphy. "Old Navy's performance was particularly strong."

Discount retailer Stein Mart also delivered strong growth with a 6.5% comparable store sales rise, which "continues our strong sales trend", CEO Jay Stein said.

The Florida-based chain said linens, women's casual sportswear and women's boutique posted the strongest sales for the month, while men's sportswear, women's accessories and women's special sizes were weaker. 

Although June same-store sales were "above trend" for The Cato Corporation, chairman, president, and CEO John Cato warned that "higher markdowns will affect our results for the quarter".

The value-priced fashion apparel retailer said year-to-date same-store sales results have been volatile, driven in part by economic uncertainties as well as unseasonable weather. "We believe this uncertainty will continue and we remain cautious as we look toward the second half of the year," Cato added.

Having said this, Cato still expects second-quarter earnings per share to be within its original guidance of $0.42-0.48, a decrease of 29-19% compared with $0.59 last year. 

However Limited Brands, which is now operating under a new temporary name L Brands, missed expectations for the second time in the last three months after the operator of the Victoria's Secret and La Senza lingerie chains reported flat comparable store sales.

US retailers' June 2013 sales roundup 
Action sportswear and footwear retailer Zumiez recorded a 14.5% increase in total sales to reach US$58.8m for the five weeks to 6 July, up from $51.3m the same period last year. Comparable store sales edged up 1% at the company, which operates 522 stores across the US, Canada and Europe.

Over at value-priced fashion apparel retailer The Cato Corporation, sales reached $86.1m for the month, up 3% on the prior year's $83.7m. Same-store sales climbed 1%. During June, the company opened one store, relocated two, and closed two, taking its total number of stores to 1,306.

Limited Brands (now operating under a new temporary name L Brands) said June sales were up 2.2% to $1.10bn from $1.08bn the previous year. Comparable store sales, meanwhile, were flat for the company that operates 2,617 stores in the US.

At denim specialist The Buckle, total sales increased 3.9% to $82.5m, compared with $79.4m in June last year. The Kearney, Nebraska-based company, which runs 445 stores across 43 states, posted a 3.4% rise in comparable store sales for the five weeks to 7 July.

Discount retailer Stein Mart was "pleased" with its 2.6% rise in sales to reach $109m in June, up from $106.3m last year. Comparable store sales grew 6.5%. The company, which operates 262 stores, said sales were strongest in the Southeast, Texas, Florida and the Gulf States, while the Midwest, Northeast and California performed lower than the chain.

And specialty clothing retailer Gap Inc was "pleased" with its 8% increase in sales to reach $1.53bn, up  from $1.41bn last year. Comparable store sales were up 7% for the five-week period. The San-Francisco-based company said growth was helped by a 13% gain at Old Navy, and a 5% rise at Gap, while Banana Republic saw comparable store sales slip 1%.