March Retail Reports Start Strong

American Eagle, Hot Topic and Zumiez all top estimates.
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Early reports of March same-store sales after the bell Wednesday showed stronger-than-expected results from three teen-focused chains.

Clothing chain

American Eagle Outfitters

(AEO) - Get Report

said that same-store sales surged 20% for the month, flying by Wall Street's estimate for an 11.1% rise. Total sales for the five weeks ended April 7 jumped 35% to $201.6 million.

The company, crediting on-trend spring clothing and a well-received spring break marketing campaign, raised its first-quarter earnings forecast. American Eagle now sees earnings of 34 cents to 35 cents a share, up from an earlier view of 31 cents to 33 cents. Analysts polled by Thomson Financial predict earnings of 33 cents a share.

Meanwhile, perennial laggard

Hot Topic

(HOTT)

also managed to top Wall Street's expectations. The seller of music-themed apparel and accessories said same-store sales rose 3.4% in March, compared with analysts' forecast for a 0.5% rise.

Hot Topic, which has been in a prolonged sales slump, said total March sales climbed 7% to $63.3 million. Shares were rising 31 cents, or 2.8%, to $11.25 in late trading Wednesday.

Zumiez

(ZUMZ) - Get Report

also was gaining after the retailer of extreme-sports goods posted a 17% jump in March same-store sales. Wall Street expected a 9.8% rise, according to Thomson First Call. Shares were adding 69 cents, or 1.7%, to $41.35 after hours.

One retail disappointment came from

Men's Wearhouse

(MW)

, which didn't release March figures but said it expects first-quarter earnings to be at the low end of its guidance, primarily due to softening U.S. sales. The company's forecast had called for first-quarter earnings of 63 cents to 67 cents a share.

Shares of Men's Wearhouse were falling $2.93, or 6.3%, to $43.90 in late trading.

Most of the other major retail chains will report their results Thursday morning, and the sales are generally expected to show big gains due to a shift in the Easter holiday this year. Earlier Wednesday, discount giant

Target

(TGT) - Get Report

posted a 12% jump in March same-store sales, in line with expectations.