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Retailers Report Disappointing March Sales Results

April 09, 1993|From Associated Press

Wintry weather and consumer nervousness about taxes and the economy punished the nation's biggest retailers in March, with many of them reporting disappointing sales results.

Many retailers reported business was down from year-earlier levels. Others, such as industry leader Wal-Mart Stores Inc., posted only small gains.

Sales dipped during the first half of March as a winter storm in the East and an assortment of bad weather in other parts of the country kept shoppers out of the malls or even shut stores down. Business revived in late March and the first few days of April with the return of spring-like temperatures.

But retailers said consumers' growing concern about the economy--and higher taxes under President Clinton's budget plan--was evident even when the weather cleared. "Since mid-February, the customer seems to be holding back," said Stephen Watson, president of Dayton Hudson Corp.

March was the second straight month that retailers have stumbled after posting generally healthy sales increases since last fall. Some retailers, including Kmart Corp., the country's second-largest retailer, said the slump was squeezing profits.

Kmart Chairman Joseph Antonini warned in a statement Thursday that "strong sales in April will be necessary for earnings" to equal or exceed the levels of first-quarter 1992.

Some retailers and industry analysts said sales could improve once warmer weather takes hold. Edward Johnson, an analyst with Johnson Redbook Service, noted that many women curtailed clothing purchases during the recession and are hungry for something new. "Consumers have been shopping in their closet," he said.

Johnson is bullish about sales for the coming months, saying that last month's sales weakness was "all weather-related and not consumer confidence-related."

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