Drawn by unseasonably warm weather across much of the country, shoppers hit the malls in February with their wallets open and handed retailers a robust start to the spring shopping season.
Major chain stores posted a healthy 4.7% sales increase in February compared with the same month a year earlier, beating analysts' expectations of a more modest 3.4% rise. Discounters, teen retailers and apparel sellers all posted healthy sales increases, according to Thomson Reuters' tally of 18 retailers.
"February was obviously very encouraging," said Sherif Mityas, a partner in the retail practice at consulting firm A.T. Kearney Inc. "The retailers got some great tail winds coming out of January with really great weather, they put new merchandise on the shelf, and consumer confidence is up because jobs are up. When you put all those together it makes for a good month."
Top performers were a mixture of high- and low-end stores. Teen retailer the Buckle led the way with a 14.8% bump and action-sports chain Zumiez Inc. posted a 14.2% increase. Buoyed by a comeback of wealthy shoppers, luxury retailer Nordstrom Inc. reported a strong 10.2% increase. Off-price chains TJX Cos. and Ross both reported increases of 9%.