Shoppers stroll through Santa Monica Place mall. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles…)
Attracted by heavy winter sales and promotions, shoppers headed to the malls in January as retailers worked to clear their shelves in advance of the coming spring.
Major chain stores posted an impressive 4.2% sales increase in January compared with the same month a year earlier, handily exceeding analysts' expectations of a modest 2% rise. Discounters and apparel sellers especially posted healthy sales increases, according to Thomson Reuters' tally of 20 retailers.
Top performers were a mixture of high- and low-end stores. Action-sports chain Zumiez Inc. led the way with a 10.8% bump. Buoyed by a comeback of wealthy shoppers, luxury retailer Saks Inc. reported a strong 10.5% increase. Costco Wholesale Corp. said sales rose 8%. Limited Brands, parent company of Limited and Victoria's Secret stores, had a 9% increase.
Other retailers did not fare as well. Teen clothier Wet Seal said sales fell 13%, while struggling apparel giant Gap Inc. reported a 4% drop.
All told, about 59% of retailers beat expectations, Thomson Reuters said.
Results are based on sales at stores open at least a year, known as same-store sales and considered an important measure of a retailer's health because it excludes the effect of stores' openings and closings.
For many retailers, January is the last month of the fourth quarter and a time when shoppers go to stores to redeem gift cards and pick through discounted winter merchandise. It can also give an early sign of demand for spring goods, which begin appearing on store shelves during the month.
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