Consumers lured by clearance sales and a fresh assortment of spring apparel gave many of the nation's retailers solid January sales despite...

Share story

NEW YORK — Consumers lured by clearance sales and a fresh assortment of spring apparel gave many of the nation’s retailers solid January sales despite late-month snowstorms in the Midwest and Northeast.

As merchants released results yesterday, a diverse group of retailers had sales that beat Wall Street expectations, including clothing stores Abercrombie & Fitch and Talbots, department-store chain J.C. Penney and discounter Target. Luxury stores such as Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus Group again reported sales that surpassed Wall Street estimates.

The gain at stores open at least a year was the highest in three months, the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) said in a statement.

The New York-based trade group had forecast a 3 percent increase from a year earlier. Wal-Mart Stores, the world’s largest retailer, said sales rose 2.5 percent, hurt by snowstorms in the Midwest and East.

Most Read Stories

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks.

Seattle-based Nordstrom continued to outpace other department stores, with an 8.8 percent gain in same-store sales, well above the 4.5 percent estimate. Total sales rose 8.9 percent.

The upscale retailer posted its strongest sales in its southern and Southwest stores, and in its men’s apparel, accessories and women’s bridge and junior apparel lines.

Neiman Marcus, meanwhile, reported a 12.2 percent gain in same-store sales, above the 7.9 percent estimate. Total sales rose 10.1 percent.

The month provided some encouraging trends: Stores including Penney, Talbots and Gap reported strong sales of regular-price spring merchandise, indicating consumers are feeling better about spending.

“Solid sales of spring goods this early in the season indicate that consumers are feeling better,” said Ken Perkins, an analyst at RetailMetrics, a research firm in Swampscott, Mass. “It also bodes well for the bottom line.”

Perkins predicted fourth-quarter earnings will be strong although nervous retailers resorted to markdowns as shoppers procrastinated during December. “The heavy discounting that took place doesn’t seem to have taken a big bite out of the bottom line as one might have expected,” he said.

Many retailers faced difficult comparisons with a year ago, when sales rose 6 percent, according to ICSC. Issaquah-based Costco Wholesale said U.S. sales rose 3 percent, less than the 6.1 percent analysts expected. The company’s January sales surged 12 percent last year.

There were some disappointments during January, including an overall sales decline at Gap and a drop at May Department Stores. But generally, it was a good month.

The ICSC-UBS preliminary sales tally of 70 retailers rose 3.7 percent in January, higher than the 2.5 percent forecast. The tally is based on same-store sales, which are sales at stores opened at least a year. They are considered the best indicator of a retailer’s health.

Information from Bloomberg News is included in this report.