Store Chains see February Sales Gains


Victoria's Secret parent Limited Brands Inc (NYSE:LTD) reported a large sales gain for February, leading a charge of retailers that benefited from rising consumer confidence to beat Wall Street forecasts.

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Limited, which also owns Bath & Body Works, said on Thursday that sales at stores open at least a year rose 8% last month, above the analysts' average forecast of 6.2% compiled by Thomson Reuters.

So far six retailers, including Stage Stores (NYSE:SSI), and teen-oriented The Buckle Inc (NYSE:BKE) and Zumiez Inc (NYSE:ZUMZ) have reported February sales that have come in above Wall Street forecasts.

Improving consumer confidence is one reason analysts expect February same-store sales to be up 3.4% for the 21 companies tracked in Thomson Reuters' same-store sales index.

Other chains, including Macy's Inc (NYSE:M), Kohl's Corp (NYSE:KSS) and Target Corp (NYSELTGT), will report later on Thursday morning.

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The housing market appears to be stabilizing, and the unemployment rate fell to 8.3% in January from 9.1% in August. The University of Michigan's consumer confidence survey rose for the sixth straight month in February.

And the surging stock market, which this week hit its highest levels since May 2008 financial meltdown, has been a boon for upscale chains like Saks Inc (NYSE:SKS) and Nordstrom Inc (NYSE: JWN) in recent months.

But the rising price of gasoline is casting a pall on consumer spending. As of Thursday, a gallon of gas in the United States cost $3.74, up 35 cents from a year earlier, according to the American Automobile Association.

On Wednesday, Costco Wholesale Corp (NASDAQ:COST) said its same-store sales had risen 8% in February, outpacing the 7.6% rise that analysts expected, according to Thomson Reuters data. Much of the warehouse club chain's gains in the past year have come from shoppers seeking cheaper gasoline.

Wet Seal (NASDAQ:WTSLA) was one of the few chains to report a decline in sales, but the fall of 5.8% was less steep than expected.

Home decoration and furniture chain Pier 1 Imports Inc (NYSE:PIR) said its same-store sales for the full holiday quarter rose 10.3%.

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