Retail sales climb healthy 4.3% in March

Shoppers hit the malls in March and provided a boost for the nation’s retailers, a good sign for consumer spending this spring despite continuing worries about rising gas prices.

Major chain stores posted a healthy 4.3% sales increase in March compared with the same month a year earlier, beating analysts’ expectations of a more modest 3.5% rise. Discounters, teen retailers and apparel sellers all posted healthy sales increases, according to Thomson Reuters’ tally of 20 retailers.

“Overall it was a pretty decent month,” said Judith Russell, editor of the Robin Report, a retail industry publication. “Initial spring sales were pretty good, and the weather helped motivate a lot of people to shop for warm weather clothes.”

Top performers were a mixture of high- and low-end stores. Action-sports chain Zumiez Inc. led the way with a 14.1% bump. Benefiting from a continuing thrifty mindset, off-price retailers Ross Stores Inc. and TJX Cos. both reported a strong 10% increase. Luxury retailer Nordstrom Inc. saw sales rise 8.6%. Gap Inc., which has been struggling in the past year, beat expectations with a robust 8% jump.


Other retailers did not fare as well. Struggling teen clothier Wet Seal said sales fell 7.8%, while drugstore chain Walgreen Co. reported a 6.8% drop.

All told, about 59% of retailers beat expectations, Thomson Reuters said.

Many retailers benefit from a boost in March as students shop for spring break and families buy clothing and accessories in advance of the Easter holiday.

Results are based on sales at stores open at least a year, known as same-store sales and considered an important measure of a retailer’s health because it excludes the effect of stores’ openings and closings.



Best Buy to close stores after reporting losses

Retail roundup: Home Depot, e-books, LivingSocial

L.A. council proposal could keep Wal-Mart grocery out of Chinatown