June retail sales jump 4.1% in biggest increase since January

Shoppers at the Americana at Brand in Glendale. Retail sales in June beat expectations.
(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

Retail sales got a summer shape-up in June as cheerier job prospects, toastier temperatures and more affordable fuel prices gave the gauge its biggest boost since the beginning of the year.

Same-store sales at shops open at least a year — a measure that strips out the volatility of openings and closings — rose 4.1% last month from the same period a year earlier, according to Retail Metrics Inc.

The surge is the largest of the year behind a 5.1% swell in January. June results beat forecasts of a 3.7% boost and also outperformed the 3.8% increase recorded in May, as well as a 0.3% upswing in June 2012.


Mandeville Canyon resident Lindsay Wilson, 40, said she’s noticed crowded parking lots at Neiman Marcus stores, real estate bidding wars and a stock market upswing.

“It’s not such a scary thing to spend money anymore; there’s not so much trepidation,” Wilson said this week while treating her 2-year-old daughter, Lilly, to ice cream at the Brentwood Country Mart.

This year, the stay-at-home mom has splurged on a new car, summer vacation preparations and items for Lilly, she said.

“I feel the hustle and bustle — people definitely seem to want to shop now,” Wilson said. “Everyone talking about the economy getting better makes me feel safer.”

Spring was difficult for companies, clouded with chilly temperatures and stuck in “an economic soft patch,” Retail Metrics President Ken Perkins said.

But June benefited from “an improving labor market coupled with falling gas prices during the month, seasonably warmer temperatures that drove summer [sales], rising home prices and generally better macroeconomic conditions,” he said.


Discounters benefited from consumers’ sunnier outlook. Regional chain Fred’s Inc. saw a 4.5% same-store sales increase last month.

Stein Mart Inc. said sales were up 6.5%. The retailer, which has 262 stores, said its linens, women’s casual sportswear and women’s boutique goods did well. Florida and other Gulf Coast states drew high revenue, though California suffered.

Even the “extreme heat” on the West Coast toward the end of the month couldn’t keep club chain Costco Wholesale Corp. from reporting a 6% comparable sales boost. Nor could cannibalization from new stores, according to a report from Sterne Agee analyst Chuck Grom.

Traffic at Costco stores was up 5% last month, which propelled hefty sales in frozen foods and candy.

A separate account of retail sales from the International Council of Shopping Centers found a 3.9% gain in June. Excluding drugstores, the tally is up 5.3% — the strongest reading since August, according to the trade group.

Yet another measure from Thomson Reuters also showed companies beating Wall Street forecasts. Predictions of a 3.8% sales increase when including drugstores and a 4.8% surge without them proved inaccurate.


Thomson Reuters calculated that the 11 retailers in its roundup enjoyed a 4.8% uptick with drugstores and a 5.9% rise without. The number of companies reporting monthly data has slumped steadily in recent years.

Los Angeles garment seller American Apparel Inc. said its same-store sales swelled 7% in June. Gap Inc. in San Francisco said the same. But most other clothing retailers were weak.

“Once you cut back, you just stay in that same mode,” said Los Angeles banker Donna Whiteside, 56, while returning a dress to a Beverly Hills Anthropologie store. “I like the feeling of being in control.”

She couldn’t resist browsing the sales rack but left empty-handed. Whiteside said she wants to stash away most of her discretionary income to handle major expenditures, such as her daughter’s college tuition, should she ever lose her job.

“Also, I stopped shopping so much because I felt guilty about my spending when so many of my friends and family had lost their jobs,” she said. “It did not feel right to go out and buy a new wardrobe when they were worried about just making ends meet.”

Sales at Limited Brands were flat compared with 7% growth in June 2012. After lower clearance sales, Victoria’s Secret slipped 1% after an 11% rise last year, according to RBC Capital Markets analyst Howard Tubin.


Bebe Stores Inc., which does not disclose monthly sales data, said Thursday that same-store sales for its fourth fiscal quarter tumbled 7.1%. The Brisbane, Calif., women’s wear company said traffic declined at its 240 stores. The brand also offered more promotions throughout the period as it tried to sell off excess inventory.

For July, the shopping centers trade group ICSC said it expects as much as a 3.5% same-store sales increase.

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