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February 8, 2018updated 12 Apr 2021 2:31pm

US apparel retailers’ January 2018 sales roundup

January proved a more positive month for the handful of US apparel retailers still reporting their monthly comparable sales figures, as all but one posted increases in January, and one narrowly avoided its 31st consecutive monthly same store sales decline.

By Beth Wright

January proved a more positive month for the handful of US apparel retailers still reporting their monthly comparable sales figures, as all but one posted increases in January, and one narrowly avoided its 31st consecutive monthly same store sales decline.

According to research firm Retail Metrics ,January same store sales came in better than expected rising 5.7% following the largest holiday sales increase in 12 years. This compares to expectations of a 3.5% gain and is up from 3.8% a year ago. December saw a 10.3% increase and November, a 9.5% gain.

Retail Metrics president Ken Perkins said January is largely a clearance/transitional month as the industry typically cleans out holiday/winter merchandise to make way for early spring product flows.

He adds, as a reminder from a sales perspective, January is “one of the least important” months of the year, and this year contains a fifth week due to the 53 week calendar many retailers have that makes up for one less day each when they report on a 52 week basis (364 days). This occurs every five to six years depending on leap year.

Perkins says the firm’s store checks have been “mixed” throughout the month, which started off well with consumers utilising gift cards and exchanging holiday gifts but bitterly cold temperatures in the east and South inhibited traffic.

While, Martin Luther King weekend promotions generated a modest traffic bump, the back half of January relatively sluggish, with off-mall big box continuing to outpace mall-based speciality apparel and department stores.

Winners and losers

All but one of the apparel retailers still reporting monthly comparable store sales posted increases in January, with one bucking its negative trend.

This was Nebraska-based denim specialist The Buckle which was tipped to turn in its 31st consecutive monthly same store sales decline with a 3.3% decline. However, the teen apparel chain announced a surprise 0.2% rise in comparable store net sales, marking its first positive monthly same store sales increase since June 2015. This was a 430 bp sequential improvement from the 4.1% decline registered in December. Net sales were also up, increasing 27.1% to $55.7m.

The firm added January 2018 was a five-week fiscal period, ending Buckle’s 53-week fiscal year, while the prior January was a four-week fiscal period, ending a 52-week fiscal year.

Meanwhile, comparable store sales for value-priced fashion and accessories retailer Cato Corporation continued on their negative trend in January. The retailer turned in a 6% comp decline in line with Retail Metrics’ forecast. The Charlotte, North Carolina-based chain has now comped negatively for 23 straight months. On a comparable five-week basis, total sales decreased 7%.

Cato added January 2018 contains five weeks versus four weeks in January 2017, while CEO John Cato said the January same store sales decline is consistent with the firm’s recent trend.

L Brands, owner of the Victoria’s Secret, Pink and La Senza brands, reported comparable sales for the five weeks ended 3 February 2018 increased 7%, compared to the five weeks ended 4 February 2017. This beat the retailer’s initial January same store sales guidance of up low single digits, and was the group’s strongest performance in 25 months dating back to December 2015, knocking aside expectations for a 1.8% gain. The Columbus, Ohio-based chain said reported net sales of $1.04bn for the five-week period ended 3 February 2018, compared to sales of $805.2m for the four-week period ended 28 January 2017.  

Speciality apparel and footwear retailer Zumiez, meanwhile, reported its 11th consecutive positive monthly same store sales increase. The company’s comparable sales increased 6.3% for the five-week period ended 3 February 2018, compared to the five-week period ended 4 February 2017. This beat Street forecasts for a 1.9% gain and compares to a 9.4% increase for the four week period ended 28 January 2017. Total sales were up 33.6% to $66m.

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