Warm weather and promotions tied to Memorial Day and Father's Day helped U.S. retailers post higher same-store sales in June, but analysts warned the discount-heavy month might eat into margins.
Limited Brands and teen apparel chains like Abercrombie & Fitch Co, Hot Topic and Zumiez reported some of the biggest gains. Warehouse club Costco Wholesale Corp, however, missed expectations as its stores are closed on Memorial Day.
Abercrombie shares rose about 6 percent after posting a 9 percent increase in June sales at stores open at least a year, well ahead of Wall Street's average estimate of a 2.8 percent rise. The Standard & Poor's Retail Index fell 0.8 percent.
Shares of department store chains like J.C. Penney also rose after they beat estimates. Department stores were expected to post a strong June after suffering some of the biggest declines last year. Penney cited brisk sales of summer apparel ahead of Father's Day.
Many retailers pulled out all of the stops with respect to promos in June, Wall Street Strategies' Brian Sozzi said.
Based on reports from 28 retailers, same-store sales rose 3.1 percent in June, compared with a Wall Street forecast of a 3.2 percent rise and a year-earlier drop of 4.9 percent, according to Thomson Reuters data.
BACK-TO-SCHOOL IN VIEW
June marks the 10th consecutive month of rising sales after a year of declines during the recession, but analysts have urged investors not to interpret the strength as a harbinger of better times while unemployment remains high and consumers stay cautious.
Lower- and middle-income consumers have really taken a pause here, Retail Metrics President Ken Perkins said, adding that the jobless rate, stagnant home prices and declining stock markets still weigh on consumers' minds.
Perkins said retailers were pushed to cut prices more than they had planned, which will cut into margins.
In terms of back-to-school, it suggests it's going to be a difficult one for retailers, Perkins said. They are going to have to be a bit more promotional than they want to be.
The International Council of Shopping Centers forecast a same-store sales increase of 3 percent to 4 percent in July.
Warm weather across most of the country stoked demand for summer clothes, footwear and outdoor goods in June after a lackluster period of sales in April and May.
Limited Brands, which operates retail chains Bath and Body Works, Victoria's Secret and Victoria's Secret Pink, said June same-store sales rose 6 percent, well ahead of the 3.2 percent gain analysts had forecast.
Top U.S. warehouse club operator Costco reported a 4 percent rise in June same-store sales, helped by rising gasoline prices and strengthening foreign currencies. Analysts had expected a 4.2 percent increase.
Gap reported flat same-store sales in June amid disappointing traffic, missing the 3.4 percent increase expected by analysts and setting the company up for margin pressure in July as it tries to clear inventory for the fall. Its shares fell about 7 percent.
(Reporting by Dhanya Skariachan; Additional reporting by Brad Dorfman, Ben Klayman, Helen Chernikoff, Shradhha Sharma, Viraj Nair; Editing by Michele Gershberg, Derek Caney and Lisa Von Ahn)