August 18, 2022

Retailers Beat Expectations for June

Sales at stores open at least a year, an indication of retail vibrancy, rose 6.5 percent at 25 stores that had reported results by Thursday morning, according to Thomson Reuters. Analysts had expected an increase of 4.9 percent.

Though the comparable-store increase in April was higher, at 9.0 percent, those numbers are misleading because Easter can fall in March or April, affecting those months’ results. Excluding the Easter months, June’s results were the biggest increase since February 2004, when sales rose 7.0 percent, Thomson Reuters said.

That meant that, instead of complaining about gas prices or a too-hot, too-cold or too-wet June, retailers in a range of sectors reported good news.

“It reflects that despite all the bad news, the consumer still basically feels like they’ve got money in their wallet,” said Al Sambar, a retail strategist at the consulting firm Kurt Salmon.

While discount stores turned in the strongest performance as a sector, with sales rising 9 percent, every sector had positive comparable sales. And the companies with the best results and that beat analyst expectations by the widest margins cater to all sorts of shoppers: Costco, up 14 percent, goes after value-minded shoppers, but also those who have enough to spend on flat-screen TVs and vats of mayonnaise; Saks, where sales rose 11.9 percent, is all about high-priced luxury; Kohl’s and Dillard’s, where sales rose 7.5 percent and 6 percent respectively, go after a midrange shopper with lots of promotions and coupons; Zumiez and Wet Seal, which rose 9.8 percent and 7.3 percent respectively, target teens with mall shops.

June is not a make-or-break month for retailers, which are generally clearing out inventory in anticipation of the back-to-school season.

“June is somewhat of a transition month for retail,” said Michael McNamara, vice president of research and analysis for MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse, which tracks overall sales. “Some categories are ending one season and getting ready for the next, such as apparel. Other categories are depending more on the summer travel season.”

Discretionary spending seemed to be strong. The SpendingPulse numbers suggested that luxury, jewelry and apparel spending all continued at a brisk pace, and the retailers’ results reflected that.

Kohl’s said that sales of watches and handbags were quite good, for instance, while Saks said that women’s shoes, designer apparel and jewelry were among its best performers, and J.C. Penney also said jewelry had sold well.

Because the shopper seemed to be buoyant, the differences among competitors were getting more pronounced as retailers can no longer blame the economy.

Penney had one of the biggest misses, with its comparable sales results up 2 percent versus analyst expectations of 2.3 percent. The company said that was because of a “softer than anticipated selling environment for J. C. Penney’s moderate customer and the resulting higher level of promotional activity during the quarter.” The company noted that online sales rose 2.2 percent for the month.

Competitors like Macy’s and Kohl’s, though, turned in much stronger results. Kohl’s said home, women’s and children’s products all had big increases. At Macy’s, same-store sales rose 6.7 percent, and Internet sales were up 45 percent in June compared to a year ago, the company said. (The results include both Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s.)

In terms of same-store sales increases, Costco had the biggest jump, at 14 percent. Analysts had expected a 12.7 percent increase. The Limited, driven by Victoria’s Secret, continued to shine, with a 12 percent increase, versus analyst estimates of 3.8 percent. Saks placed third in the comp-sales horse race, with sales rising 11.9 percent, versus analyst estimates of 7 percent.

Analysts said that the back-to-school picture was still hazy. While the strong results in June indicated consumers were happy to shop, many retailers have said they will raise prices around the back-to-school season because of more expensive goods. “The customer, regardless of all this stuff we’re talking about, is price sensitive,” Mr. Sambar said, and retailers did not yet know whether the shoppers would accept higher prices.

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