Updated from 10:13 a.m. EDTRetail sales were mixed in June, with many coming in below analysts' expectations, as holiday calendar shifts and poor weather in much of the country crimped consumer shopping. The results were the latest evidence of a cooling in the U.S. economic recovery, a concern that has hurt stocks and pulled market interest rates sharply lower in the past week. June's retail same-store sales also reinforced that many U.S. consumers are still able to trade up for higher-quality, more expensive goods, while those who shop at discount stores are having their discretionary spending zapped in part by higher energy prices. Despite some skepticism, the weather was a big drag on results, said Mike Niemira, director of research at the International Council of Shopping Centers. It was the 7th wettest June on record since 1895, Niemira said Wednesday. While the weather was generally shopper-friendly in the first half of month, the second half of month was cooler and rainier, causing many shoppers to stay home. As a result, Niemira called June's poor performance "exaggerated," compared with the rest of the year. "The weather situation has just been brutal to anyone who hoped to pick up impulse buy" things like shorts or bathing suits, said Ryan Erickson, senior portfolio manager at Holt, Smith & Yates, which owns shares of Target ( TGT) and Kohl's ( KSS). Among individual retailers, Wal-Mart ( WMT) said June same-store sales came in at the bottom of its previously lowered forecast, rising 2.2% vs. the Thomson First Call consensus estimate for a 3.5% increase. By division, Wal-Mart stores had a 1.3% increase in June same-store sales and Sam's Club posted a 6.3% increase. Those compared with consensus estimates for a 3.5% increase at Wal-Mart stores and a 6.2% increase at Sam's Club. The company said total sales rose 9.3% to $26.97 billion, with sales in standalone Wal-Mart stores up 8.3% at $18.11 billion and Sam's Club stores reporting a 7.8% increase at $3.65 billion in total revenue. Wal-Mart forecast July same-stores sales to be up 2% to 4%. Its shares fell 25 cents, or 0.5%, to $52.07 in Thursday trading. "Wal-Mart is very sensitive to the high gas prices through their customer base," said Niemira. "
Through its research, the ICSC found evidence for Wal-Mart's claim that its sales are twice as sensitive to changes in gas prices than the industry as a whole, Niemira said. Meanwhile, Target said overall same-store sales increased 2.3% in June, also below the consensus for a 3.5% gain. The company reaffirmed that second-quarter profit could be below analysts' consensus. Target said sales in the month were below its own plan and said it expects to earn 46 cents to 47 cents a share in the second-quarter vs. the consensus for 47 cents a share. Target had initially guided June same-store sale to be up 5% to 7%, but last week said results would disappoint. By division, standalone Target stores had a 2.2% increase in June same-store sales vs. the consensus for a 4% increase. Mervyn's stores posted a 0.8% rise in comps, beating expectations for a 3.7% drop. Target's Marshall Field's stores are not included in the mix, as they are in the process of being sold to May Department Stores ( MAY). Total sales in June rose 8.1% at Target to $4.47 billion. Shares of the company were lately down 90 cents, or 2.2%, at $40.59. Another discounter, Costco ( COST), said total June same-store sales increased 6%, below the expectation for an 8.4% gain. The company reported total monthly sales of $4.64 billion, up 9% from the prior year. Costco said the calendar shift of Memorial Day this year reduced same-store sales and net sales by roughly 3%. The shares were down $1.13, or 2.7%, to $40.25.
BJ's Wholesale Club ( BJ) had a 7.4% rise in June same-store sales, ahead of expectations for a 6.5% increase. Gasoline sales added 2.6% to results. "The negative effect of generally cooler weather during the month was partially offset by the positive effect of a calendar shift in the July Fourth holiday vs. last year," the company said. The shift of the July Fourth holiday added 0.4% to same-store sales, while weaker sales of seasonal goods hurt results by 1.7%. Total sales were up 11.3% at $731 million in the month, BJ's said. BJ's shares were lately up 2 cents at $24.25. Among upscale retailers, Saks ( SKS) posted an 8.5% increase in June same-store sales, outpacing the First Call estimate for a 5.7% increase. Shares of Saks were down 3 cents at $13.60. Neiman-Marcus ( NMGa) blew past the positive 9% same-store sales consensus estimate, posting a 13% increase in June results. The company's shares were down $2.19, or 5.1%, at $41.13. And Nordstrom ( JWN) said same-store sales increased 5.7%, short of the estimate for a 6.5% increase. Total sales were up 8.5% at $707.4 million. The stock was up 10 cents at $54.90. Pier 1 Imports ( PIR) had a 4.3% decline in June same-store sales, ahead of the consensus estimate for a 7.9% drop, while total sales in the period ended July 3 rose 4.5% to $172.9 million. The company had previously predicted same-store sales would decline 7% to 9%, and cited a good customer response to a wicker sale for the better-than-expected performance. It forecast July same-store sales to be down 2% to up 2%. Pier 1 shares were up 88 cents, or 5.2%, at $17.88.
Gap ( GPS) said same-store sales dropped 2% in June, missing the consensus for a 4.1% increase, while total sales in the period were flat at $1.5 billion. By division, the company's higher-end chain, Banana Republic, had same-store sales up 11% vs. the 7% expectation. On the lower end, Old Navy same-store sales dropped 2%, below the estimate for a 2.3% gain. The results sent shares down 70 cents, or 3%, at $22.78. Banana Republic's strong results come on the heels of solid results since February when same-store sales surged 17% and 18% in March, for example. Last June, Banana Republic had a 5% drop in results. In the department store sector, Sears ( S) posted a 3.1% decrease in comparable-department store sales, compared with estimates for a 0.9% increase. Total revenue dropped 4.4% to $2.55 billion. The company cited poor weather, weak Father's Day demand and lackluster apparel sales due to inventory problems. Sears shares were down 48 cents, or 1.3%, at $35.23. J.C. Penney ( JCP) beat expectations, posting a 4.8% increase in comparable department-store sales vs. the Thomson First Call consensus for a 4.7% gain. The company cited a positive response to a Father's Day promotion. Total sales were also up 4.8% at $1.26 billion in June. The company forecast July same-store sales up in the low-single digits. Shares of J.C. Penney were up $1.04, or 2.9%, at $37.25. Federated Department Stores ( FD) reported a 3.4% increase in June same-store sales, below the estimate for a 4.1% gain and the company's own estimate for a 4% to 5% rise. Federated cited weaker apparel sales, especially in the Northeast and Midwest, due in part to colder weather than last year. The company said total sales also rose 3.4% to $1.38 billion in June.
July same-store sales are seen up 3% to 5%, Federated said, and also confirmed its prior second-quarter earnings guidance of 57 cents to 62 cents a share. The First Call consensus is for 67 cents a share, however. The stock was down $1.50, or 3.1%, at $46.31. Same-store sales at May Department Stores narrowly missed the consensus estimate, coming in at positive 1.9% vs. the 2% expectation. Total sales increased 2.5% to $1.16 billion. Shares of May were down 40 cents, or 1.5%, at $26.24. Kohl's reported a 3.7% decline in the month's same-store sales, well below the consensus estimate for a 0.6% decrease. Total sales rose 9.8%, however, to $909.6 million, and the company maintained its second-quarter earnings guidance for 42 cents to 45 cents a share, which is within range to above the consensus for 43 cents a share. The stock was up 70 cents recently, or 1.7%, at $42.16. Erickson said the year's second half could suffer from less economic stimulus in the way of tax refunds and high gas prices. Since the beginning of the year, retail analysts have been obsessing over the more difficult same-store sales comparisons most retailers face from July through December, mostly because the back-to-school season was strong in 2003. But Erickson noted that "all this talk for the last six months has reduced expectations."