Retailers’ Sales Top Analysts’ Estimates in February

Gap Inc. (GPS) and Target Corp. (TGT) were among U.S. retailers posting February same-store sales gains that topped analysts’ estimates as unseasonably warm weather boosted purchases of spring merchandise.

Sales at Gap, the largest U.S. apparel chain, climbed 4 percent, beating the average projection for a 1.4 percent drop from analysts surveyed by Retail Metrics Inc. The shares surged. Target, the second-largest U.S. discount retailer, posted a 7 percent same-store sales gain, topping the 5 percent estimate.

U.S. retailers that aggressively rolled out new products benefited as warmer weather induced consumers to get a jump on their spring shopping, Eric Beder, an analyst at Brean Murray Carret & Co. in New York, said in a report before results were announced. December and January were the warmest in six years, with mild temperatures continuing into February, according to Planalytics, a weather data provider.

“Warm weather could have led to a fairly stellar February,” Joel Bines, head of retail practice at AlixPartners in Dallas, said in a telephone interview before the results. “All indications point to a strong Valentine’s Day and the retail world benefiting from pent-up demand.”

Same-store sales for the more than 20 companies tracked by Swampscott, Massachusetts-based researcher Retail Metrics rose 6.5 percent, beating the estimate for a 3.5 percent gain.

Gap, based in San Francisco, rose 7.2 percent to $25.05 at the close in New York, the highest closing price since May 3, 2010. Minneapolis-based Target gained 0.1 percent to $56.76.

Nordstrom, T.J. Maxx

Sales at Nordstrom Inc. (JWN), the Seattle-based luxury department-store chain, rose 10 percent, beating estimates for a 5.6 percent gain. TJX Cos., operator of T.J. Maxx discount stores, rose 9 percent, topping the 7 percent projection.

Nordstrom rose 0.3 percent to $53.77. TJX, based in Framingham, Massachusetts, rose 1.3 percent to $37.09.

While March probably will maintain momentum with spring clothes shopping, sales may start to slow significantly by April, said Alison Paul, retail sector leader at Deloitte LLP in Chicago.

“There is concern about gas prices, and it won’t be long before people are hesitant to make multiple trips to go shopping,” Paul said in a telephone interview. “With prices showing no signs of abating, consumers are going to start to feel challenged.”

The average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline has increased 14 percent this year to $3.74 (3AGSREG) as of yesterday, according to AAA, the largest U.S. motoring group.

Kohl’s Corp. (KSS)’s sales fell 0.8 percent, a bigger drop than the 0.2 percent estimate. The shares slid 1.6 percent to $48.87.

Most chains count locations open at least a year to tabulate same-store sales. The revenue is as key indicator of a retailer’s growth because new and closed sites are excluded.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ashley Lutz in New York at alutz8@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Robin Ajello at rajello@bloomberg.net

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