Retail sales continued to hum along in March, particularly in the trendy apparel sector, suggesting shoppers are snapping up spring fashions.
Sales at stores open at least a year, which retailers use to gauge ongoing demand, rose an average of 4.3 percent last month compared with March 2011 at the 20 stores tracked by Thomson Reuters.
That was better than the 3.5 percent increase that analysts had expected.
Apparel stores blew through estimates, with their sales rising 8.5 percent, versus the 4.9 percent that analysts had expected.
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Analysts pointed to cheerful colors and warm weather as main reasons for the increases.
“The big trend is color — it’s so simple,” said Alison Jatlow Levy, a retail strategist at the consulting firm Kurt Salmon. “It is huge, sweeping the entire market, from the low-price player to the high-price player, to accessory, to beauty.”
Also, with Easter falling in early April this year, some spring shopping probably was shifted into March, helping bolster the month’s figures.
Ross Stores and TJX, the owner of T.J. Maxx, both reported 10 percent increases in sales at stores open at least a year, also known as same-store sales. Both raised their first-quarter earnings estimates as a result.
Target, where same-store sales rose 7.3 percent, also said it expected to earn more in the first quarter than it previously had estimated. The good weather had helped sales, Gregg Steinhafel, chairman and chief executive of Target, said in a statement.
The teen clothing retailer Zumiez had the biggest jump in same-store sales, increasing 14.1 percent from February and 8.9 percent from a year ago.
Nordstrom and Limited Brands, the owner of Victoria’s Secret, rounded out the top five performers, behind Zumiez, Ross Stores and TJX, with increases of 8.6 percent and 8 percent, respectively.