Consumers didn’t do all the shopping that stores expected in April, leading to some disappointing same-store results.
Overall, the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) says its index rose 0.6% on a year-over-year basis, dampened by an earlier-than-usual Easter and unseasonably warm weather. On a two-month basis, however, the trade group says March-April sales pace held relatively steady.
Those that did shop went looking for bargains, favoring off-price chains. TJX, parent of TJMaxx, Marshalls and Home Goods, says comparable store sales climbed 7%. And at Ross Stores, comparable store results advanced by 7%, as well. “Our continued ability to deliver a wide array of name brand bargains to today’s value-focused consumers drove broad-based merchandise and geographic gains in both periods,” says Michael Balmuth, CEO, in the Pleasanton, Calif.-based company’s release. At Target, though, comparable-store sales grew by just 1.1%.
Middle-tier chains didn’t do well. Macy’s, for example, reported a scant 1.2% increase, although it, too, pointed to a combined gain of 4.4% for the combined March and April period. (And online sales in April gained 29.9%.)
Sales fell 2% at the Gap, and 1.9% at Kohl’s. “As expected, warm March weather and an early Easter contributed to a decline in April’s sales,” Kevin Mansell, Kohl’s CEO, says in its release.
A few stores actually beat expectations. At Nordstrom, same-store sales gained 7.1%. (Saks disappointed, however, posting a bump of 2%.) And Limited Brands, parent of Victoria’s Secret, Bath & Body Works and Henri Bendel, says sales climbed 6%.
Among teen retailers, Zumiez gained 10%, well above expectations, and the Buckle came in with the 1% that had been predicted. But Wet Seal posted a 9.6% decline.
ICSC says it expects May sales to advance by about 3%.
Total convenience store sales set a record high in 2011, according to data released by the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS).
Convenience store sales in 2011 totaled $681.9 billion, or one out of every 22 dollars of the overall $15.04 trillion U.S. gross domestic product, NACS reported. In-store sales grew 2.4% to a record $195 billion.
In-store sales growth was driven primarily by gains in several beverage categories and foodservice. Alternative beverages, including energy drinks, were up 15.3%; sports drinks grew 13.9%; and cold dispensed beverage sales were up 12.3%. Several beer subcategories also saw strong growth, including super-premium beer, up 10.6%, and craft beer, up 13.9%.
A smaller part of the industry’s 2011 sales growth can be attributed to an increase in store count, according to NACS. The number of U.S. convenience stores grew 1.2% over the past year to a record 148,341 locations, according to the NACS/
Nielsen TDLinx Convenience Industry Store Count, released this January. Convenience stores now account for 34.6% of all retail outlets, according to Nielsen’s figures.
“Our strong performance in 2011 shows that our industry’s core convenience offer – especially one-stop shopping and speed of service for refreshments, food and fuel – continues to resonate with our customers and attract shoppers to our stores,” NACS Chairman Tom Robinson, president of Santa Clara, Calif.-based Robinson Oil Corp., said.
More than 80% of in-store sales last year came from the top five categories: cigarettes (38.1% of in-store sales), foodservice, including dispensed beverages (16.9%), packaged beverages (14.3%). beer (7.3%), and other tobacco