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Retail sales slow to 0.8% in April

May 03, 2012|By Shan Li
  • Shoppers at the Glendale Galleria.
Shoppers at the Glendale Galleria. (Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles…)

After several months of strong retail sales, shoppers appeared more cautious about spending in April as rainy weather and fresh worries about the economy curbed people's urge to shop.

Major chain stores posted a 0.8% sales increase in April compared with the same month a year earlier, falling short of analysts' expectations of a slightly better 1.5% rise, 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 10.1% bump. Luxury retailer Nordstrom Inc. saw sales rise 7.1%. Benefiting from a continuing thrifty mindset, off-price retailer Ross Stores Inc. reported a strong 7% increase and TJX Cos. saw a 6% rise. Limited Brands, parent company of Victoria's Secret and Bath & Body Works, said sales rose 6%.

Other retailers did not fare as well. Struggling teen clothier Wet Seal said sales fell 9.6%, while department store chain Kohl's Corp. reported a 3.5% drop.

All told, about 53% of retailers missed expectations, Thomson Reuters said.

Analysts said that recent signs of smaller job gains and slower house sales may be prompting people to cut their discretionary spending once again, hinting at a tougher-than-expected summer retail season.

But industry watchers cautioned that the results were skewed because an earlier Easter date this year and unusually warm weather pushed a significant amount of sales that would normally occur in April forward into March.

When the two months are combined, retailers came out with a slightly better 2.5% gain, 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.

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