March Retail Results Torpedoed by War

Several companies post wide same-store sales declines.
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War and bad weather crimped sales at most retailers in March, as shoppers stayed at home worrying about the situation in Iraq and its possible impact on their jobs.

The sector's biggest operator,

Wal-Mart

(WMT) - Get Report

, said same-store sales were up a paltry 0.7% in the month, below its already-anemic projections for a "low single digit" gain. Rival

Target

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said same-store sales fell 2.3%, depressing its first-quarter profit outlook.

Minneapolis-based Target said April comps will probably be down again, making it unlikely the company will "fully achieve our profit plan in the first quarter." Analysts polled by First Call were predicting earnings of 40 cents a share in the quarter.

Other companies whose same-store sales dove were

bebe stores

(BEBE)

, down 10.5%;

Dillard's

(DDS) - Get Report

, down 12%;

Abercrombie & Fitch

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, down 10%; and

Limited

(LTD)

, down 4%.

May Department Stores

(MAY)

said same-store sales tumbled 11.4%, while overall sales fell 9.9% to $1.06 billion.

Hot Topic

(HOTT)

said March same-store sales fell 3.1%, although overall sales were up 18% to $38.3 million. It said weekly comps in March were positive until the last week, when, it said, last year's inclusion of Easter skewed the comparison.

Once again bucking the trend was

Gap

(GPS) - Get Report

, which reported a 9% jump in March same-store sales, saying more advertising goosed traffic. Gap's total sales were $1.4 billion in March, up 13%.