Skip to main content

Updated from 9:22 a.m. EDT

Concerns proved overblown Thursday that a lackluster May for


(WMT) - Get Walmart Inc. Report

would define the month for U.S. chain stores, although the world's biggest retailer built on its own bad news.

Having already disappointed Wall Street by reporting a 2.3% increase in same-store sales for May, which fell at the low end of its forecast, Wal-Mart said Thursday that it expects its June comps to rise anywhere from 1% to 3%. The company cautioned that high fuel prices are crimping its customers' spending habits.

With prices for crude oil futures trending over $70 a barrel on the Nymex, pushing up gasoline costs for drivers, the May retailing results came at a particularly sensitive time for investors. Fears of higher interest rates, inflation, consumer fatigue and a housing slowdown prompted a round of sharp selloffs in the stock market during the month. Wal-Mart's conservative outlook does nothing to allay those concerns, but a number of other retailers provided ground for optimism.

The International Council of Shopping Centers reported that overall same-store sales, a key metric measuring sales at stores open at least a year, rose 4.1%% in May from a year earlier, based on a survey of more than 60 chains. The ICSC had been expecting a reading closer to 3%.

"The impact of high gasoline prices seems to have been somewhat limited to Wal-Mart's lower-income customer-base," says Michael Niemera, ICSC's chief economist and director of research. "The broader story is that consumer spending continues to hold up quite well here."

Excluding Wal-Mart's results, RetailMetrics LLC president Ken Perkins said his overall same-store sales index rose an impressive 6.1%.

"Robust Mother's Day results and summer fashions at a number of apparel retailers resonated with consumers and translated into solid May same stores sales," wrote Perkins in a note to clients. "Our Retail Metrics Same Store Sales Index exceeded forecasts for a second straight month beating expectations by 60 basis points with 63% of retailers beating forecasts, well ahead of the long term average of 55%."

To view Nat Worden's video roundup of retail reports, click here


Wal-Mart's chief competitor,


(TGT) - Get Target Corporation Report

Scroll to Continue

TheStreet Recommends

, sounded a brighter note than its larger rival, with a 5.8% jump in same-store sales for May. That beat Wall Street's consensus estimate calling for a 4.9% increase.

Also in discount retailing,

B.J.'s Wholesale Club

(BJ) - Get BJ's Wholesale Club Holdings Inc. Report

reported a 4.2% increase in same-store sales, helped by strong demand for gasoline and food during the month. Analysts were expecting the retailer to log a 2.4% comp.

In the department store business,


( FD) reported a 9.2% rise in May comps that beat expectations handily. The parent of Macy's and Bloomingdale's said it expects things to slow down in June with its same-store sales increasing 2% to 3%.

Upscale department store chain,


(JWN) - Get Nordstrom Inc. Report

provided some upside with a 7.8% gain in same-store sales for May that surpassed Wall Street's expectations.

J.C. Penney

(JCP) - Get J. C. Penney Company, Inc. Report

blew away estimates with an 11.1% jump in same-store sales. The company said its performance benefited from strong demand related to shopping for Mother's Day.


(GES) - Get Guess? Inc. Report

also delivered as its comps surged 20%, beating Wall Street's estimate for an 11% gain.


(CHS) - Get Chico's FAS Inc. Report

, the women's clothing chain, said sales at stores open more than a year rose 7.2% in May, topping estimates for a 6.6% gain. Total sales rose 20.4% from a year ago to $141.1 million.

Victoria's Secret operator



said May comps jumped 7% from last year, topping estimates for a roughly 5% gain. Overall net sales rose 7% to $719.4 million.

Ann Taylor


reported that its May comps rose 12%, beating Wall Street's expectations for a 5.9% increase.

Costume jewelry and accessories retailer

Claire's Stores

( CLE) logged a 4% jump in same-store sales, in line with analysts' expectations.

The specialty apparel giant,


(GPS) - Get Gap Inc. (The) Report

, continued to struggle. Its May comps dropped 6%, further than expected. The company expressed disappointment with the performance and it warned investors that its profit margins would remain under pressure until it transitions to its fall product line in late July.

Pier 1's

(PIR) - Get n.a. Report

May same-store sales fell 6.6% from a year ago, slightly worse than expected, as a good response to new merchandise was offset by a lackluster performance over the Memorial Day weekend. Pier 1 reiterated expectations for a loss of 24 cents to 28 cents a share in the first quarter; analysts expect a loss of 25 cents a share.

Surf outfitter

Pacific Sunwear


said same-store sales fell 2.6%, while overall sales rose 5.6% to $85.1 million. Analysts were forecasting a 3.5% rise in May comps.

Late Wednesday,

American Eagle Outfitters

( AEOS) said its same-store sales rose 11%, beating analysts' average expectation for a 9.3% gain, according to Thomson First Call.

The teen-clothing retailer reiterated its second-quarter earnings forecast of 39 cents to 41 cents a share.



logged an unexpected decline in its May same-store sales, or comps. The mall-based teen-apparel chain said same-store sales slipped 1.1% after analysts had predicted a small increase. The company noted, though, that it was able to maintain its gross margin projections because of increases in its merchandise margins.

Tough times continued at

Hot Topic

( HOTT), which posted a 6% decline in comps for the month. That was a bit worse than what Wall Street was expecting, and it came on top of a 2% decline in the same month last year.

For its part,


(ZUMZ) - Get Zumiez Inc. Report

held sway with young, extreme-sports enthusiasts. The seller of action-sports products reported that its same-store sales jumped 18.2%, easily surpassing Wall Street's forecast for a 6.8% gain.