Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Check Out Line: April sales reports bring May worries


sale1.jpgCheck out the warning signs sprinkled amid the April sales results.
A lot of retailers reported better-than-expected sales in April as improved weather in parts of the country helped convince consumers to buy new clothes.
In fact, 61 percent of retailers that have reported so far beat estimates, according to Thomson Reuters research. Discounters, department stores and teen apparel retailers were among those posting the biggest upside surprises.
But amid those results were some comments that could be cause for worry going forward.

For example, J.C. Penney reported a less-than-expected decline in April same-store sales, but said it sees a steeper drop in May. It also said those rebate checks consumers are getting will provide, at best, only a modest benefit for sales and that any boost will be short-lived.
Wal-Mart had a better-than-expected same-store sales increase in April, but  gave a tepid outlook for May. The discount retailer said consumers are trying to stretch their dollars by purchasing cheaper types of meats or trading down to pasta.
Adding to worries, Wal-Mart said the “paycheck cycle” is getting more obvious, meaning it is seeing a drop in sales at the end of the month, just before consumers get paid.
Elsewhere, Target reported weakness in areas hard hit by the mortgage meltdown, including Florida, Arizona and Nevada.
Gap same-store sales actually fell more than expected in April and the company said the economic environment remains “volatile.”
The market seems to have picked up on the negativity, as the Standard & Poor’s retail index is down almost 2 percent.
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