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.