Retailers Post Mixed August Same-Store Sales (Update 1)

This story has been updated from 10:09 am ET with new information.

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Despite an ever growing trend of retailers not reporting same-store sales, the one that do had mixed results for August.

Of the 11 companies tracked by Thomson Reuters, August same-store sales came in above Wall Street expectations, registering 3.5% growth compared to an estimate of 3.1% and 1.1% sales growth in the year-earlier period. However, excluding drug stores, August same-store sales were weaker with a registered 2.9% growth vs. the 3.2% estimate and 6.5% sales growth in the year-earlier period.

Apparel sales last month were generally soft coming off of strong gains in 2012, said Ken Perkins, president of Retail Metrics.

"Back-to-School got off to a slow start given the current sluggish growth environment. Early surveys by the National Retail Federation found consumers were going to cut back on spending this year following a strong season last year," according to a note by Perkins. "Consumers looked to be shopping even closer to need this year as sales did pick up at the end of the month and over the Labor Day weekend. Retailers were very promotional during the month as they moved to drive traffic."

"Much has been made about the shift in consumer spending away from apparel toward durable goods and big ticket items over the past quarter or two," Perkins added.

Data points from the automakers on Wednesday as well as from AutoNation ( AN) and Conn's ( CONN) Thursday morning "provide further evidence of this trend which looks to be crowding out spending in specialty apparel and department stores," Perkins said.

August auto sales rose an impressive 17%, while AutoNation comps advanced a whopping 26%, marking the best month in a decade for the company, Perkins said. Conn's, a regional appliance chain, racked up a 31% August same-store sales increase, he added.

"August represents the first month in the third quarter , and mall traffic was slow given the weak start to the back-to-school season," Thomson Reuters wrote in a report on Wednesday. "However, mall traffic improved towards the end of the month during the Labor Day weekend, which has become an essential sale weekend for retailers. Still, retailers will report August SSS for the four weeks ending Saturday, August 31. Thus, Sunday and Monday sales will be reflected into the September 2013 SSS cycle."

Late Thursday, Gap ( GPS) reported August comparable sales of 2%, slightly below analysts' expectations of 2.2% and below the 9% same-store sales figure reported in the year-earlier quarter.

Of the three brands owned by Gap that report monthly comparable sales, both the Gap flagship brand and Banana Republic saw comps rise 2% last month. Analysts' were expecting gains of 2.8% in Gap and a 0.4% decline at Banana. Old Navy's slim 1% comp sales growth fell short of analysts' expectations for a 1.3% gain.

Gap shares were trading lower in after-hours, losing 0.98% to $40.25.

Shares of Zumiez ( ZUMZ) tumbled 5.6% to $23.86 in post-markets trading following the teen retailer's cautious outlook for the third quarter.

Zumiez said its net income more than doubled to $4.7 million, or 16 cents a share, in the second quarter. Net sales for the entire quarter jumped 17% to $157.9 million, however second quarter comparable sales rose just 0.9% compared to 9.5% last year.

Zumiez saw a 3% rise in August comp sales also surpassed expectations for 2.5% growth.

However, the sport apparel retailer's guidance for the third quarter wasn't reassuring to investors. Zumiez expects net sales in the range of $187 million to $191 million and earnings of 39 cents to 43 cents a share, based on expected comp sales that are flat to up 2%, it said.

The average analyst estimate was expecting third-quarter earnings of 55 cents a share, according to Thomson Reuters.

Earlier in the day, Costco Wholesale ( COST), the biggest company that still reports monthly sales, said August sales came in above the average analyst estimate. Shares closed up 2.8% to $114.62 on Thursday.

The Issaquah, Wash.-based company reported net sales of $7.95 billion for the four weeks ended Sept. 1, up 7% from August 2012.

Comparable sales for the four-week period rose 4% vs. 3.8% expected by analysts. Excluding changes in gas prices and foreign exchange rates, the company posted comparable sales of 6% for the month.

L Brands ( LTD), the parent company to Victoria's Secret, Bath & Body Works and La Senza, posted comparable-store sales that fell just short of expectations, up 2% vs. the 2.2% analysts expected, according to Thomson Reuters.

L Brands' net sales for the four weeks ended Aug. 31 rose 5.8% to $704.7 million vs. the 2012 four-week period that ended on Aug. 25, 2012.

Comparable sales at both Victoria's Secret and Bath & Body Works fell on a year-over-year basis, while sales at La Senza rose 8% vs. flat in the comparable period.

Shares fell 2.1% to $56.90.

American Apparel ( APP) said net sales slipped 1% last month, to $55.7 million. Comparable sales in August rose 3%, fueled by an 11% increase in online sales, but far below the 22% jump in August 2012. Retail store sales rose 2% in the month, while wholesale dropped 6%, the company said.

"The 3% comparable sales increase in August is particularly meaningful given that we faced a 25% increase in August last year," said Dov Charney, American Apparel's chairman and CEO, in a statement. "We also believe the decrease in estimated wholesale net sales was primarily a timing difference in the placement of month-end customer orders and we expect a return to positive sales growth for the wholesale segment in September."

American Apparel reiterated its difficulties in switching over to a new distribution center in California, but that it is making progress.

"Among other things, we have substantially fixed integration issues with information systems, strengthened our training efforts and made necessary personnel changes. We are beginning to see light at the end of this tunnel. That being said, in the event there are further integration issues or if there are systems related disruptions in the future, we will most likely incur additional unanticipated costs and reduced sales," Chief Financial Officer John Luttrell said in a statement.

American Apparel shares closed flat to finish the day at $1.40.

August same-store sales growth at The Buckle ( BKE) rose 1%, above estimates of 0.4% growth.

Net sales for the four-week period ended Aug. 31 increased just 0.3% to $101.1 million vs. the prior-year fiscal month ended Aug. 25, 2012.

Share fell 1.2% to $51.70.

-- Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York.

To contact Laurie Kulikowski, send an email to: Laurie.Kulikowski@thestreet.com.

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