NEW YORK–The move of Easter from early April last year to late in the month this year was a key factor in a tepid U.S. retail sales performance in March.
Five of the eight major retail chains tracked by HFN posted declines in same-store sales last month. The biggest drop came from Kohl’s, whose comparable-store sales fell 6.5 percent. Among the other department stores, Dillard’s same-store sales decreased 1 percent and J.C. Penney’s comp-store number was off 0.3 percent. Macy’s reported the only gain in this channel, 0.9 percent.
Among the discounters, Target’s same-store checkouts fell 5.5 percent, and the TJX stores posted a 1 percent decline. The warehouse clubs fared better, with Costco U.S. locations reporting a 7 percent gain (factoring out gasoline sales) and BJ’s Wholesale Club chiming in with a 1.3 percent increase without gas sales.
The chains were prepared for a down March, especially since many of them posted strong gains in same-store sales in March of last year. They also believe that April performance, with Easter coming late in the month, will offset this year’s poor March. Gregg Steinhafel, chairman, president and CEO of Target, reflected this optimism, saying, “Our stores are well prepared for the upcoming Easter season, and we continue to expect a mid-teens increase in Target’s April comparable-store sales.”