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March Comps Mostly Positive

NEW YORK - This winter's unusually warm weather trends coupled with an earlier Easter Sunday compared to last year boosted same-store sales for many key retailers in March.
     As has been the case for several consecutive months, the strongest performers were off price competitors TJX Cos. and Ross Stores. They were followed closely by Target and Macy's. All reported better-than-expected comps.
     Once again, those posting theMarch Same Store weakest results included mid-tier department stores Bon-Ton and Stein Mart - both with slightly negative comps.
     Among the 10 stores HTT tracks monthly, only Fred's reported flat comps.
     Home was not a strong category for most during the month.
     Target's home comps increased in the low single-digit range, with the strongest performance in seasonal categories and the softest performance in decorative home.
     Stein Mart cited home - specifically linens - as among the categories that posted the chain's strongest comps in the five weeks.
    But at TJX, where home has been a bright spot for several months, apparel took the spotlight in March. By segment, Marmaxx's comps were up 10%, driven by the apparel category's 12% comp versus home's 1%.
     Home Goods was up "a strong" 6%, noted Sherry Lang, TJX's vp of global communications.
     Winners and Home Sense combined comped up 8%, "and we're pleased to see strong trends continue in our Canadian business," Lang summed.
     Kohl's home business posted a negative comp with "decreases in substantially all discretionary categories," the company said.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Same-store sales % change

WINNERS

Ross Stores

10.0%

TJX Cos.

10.0%

Macy's Inc.

7.3%

Target Corp.

7.3%

Costco Wholesale Corp.

5.0%

Kohl's Corp.

3.6%

Duckwall-ALCO

2.3%

LOSERS

Stein Mart

(0.3)

The Bon-Stores Inc.

(0.1)

     Ross Stores was mum about its home business. Instead, the off-pricer cited juniors, children's and shoes as its strongest merchandise categories in the month.
     At Macy's, the strengths in performance was "once again ... balanced across Macy's and Bloomingdale's, stores and online, geographies and families of business," said Terry Lundgren, chairman, president and ceo. "The early warm weather drew attention to our outstanding assortments of fresh spring goods, which were received enthusiastically by customers."
     The company's online sales were especially strong - 39% in March and 35.6% year-to date for macys.com and bloomingdales.com combined.

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