Easter Aids, But Weather Hurts March Sales

Don Hogsett, April 11, 2005

New York — An unusually early Easter helped pull some holiday sales into March and away from April, but whatever help came from the holiday was partly offset by cold, rainy weather in the eastern part of the country that dampened sales of spring apparel.

Helped by the early Easter, the Johnson Redbook Index of same-store sales jumped in March 4.3 percent, following a 4.8 percent increase recorded the month before — but at the expense of April figures, which are expected to show corresponding softness.

With consumers still holding on tight to their wallets, the nation's discounters and off-pricers came out on top during March, while full-price department stores broadly took a beating.

As consumers stocked up on consumables and sought out bargains, Target Corp. led the pack with a strong 8.2 percent increase in same-store sales, followed by warehouse giant Costco with a 7 percent gain.

Wal-Mart stores came on strong with a 4.8 percent increase, and a surprise winner was Pamida, a Midwestern neighborhood small-store chain, which drove sales higher 4 percent.

Notably bloodied was Pier 1 Imports, struggling in recent months, where comps plunged a scary 18.2 percent. In a mea culpa, CEO Marvin Girouard, said, “We feel directly responsible for this poor performance. Our new advertising campaign did not launch until late in the month and store inventories continued to be below plan.

“Sales were also impacted by inclement weather throughout the country and one less sales day due to an early Easter.”

Other double-digit decliners during the month were May Department Stores, down 10.8 percent, and Value City, down 10.4 percent.

Department store retailer Dillard's fell back 7.9 percent.

The two big fabric and crafts chains both suffered declines, Hancock Fabrics off 8.9 percent, and Jo-Ann down 2.6 percent.

Discounters on top

Target +8.2%
Costco 7.0
Wal-Mart Stores 4.8
Dollar General 4.2
Pamida 4.0
Pier 1 Imports -18.2%
May Dept. Stores -10.8
Value City -10.4
Hancock Fabrics -8.9
Dillard -7.9

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