May brought mixed sales results for retailers, with early reports on Thursday suggesting an erratic recovery in consumer spending during a seasonally weaker period of shopping.
Based on reports of 11 retailers out of 28 tracked by Thomson Reuters, 60 percent came in ahead of expectations, while 40 percent fell short.
Costco Wholesale Corp. disappointed with a 9 percent gain for sales at stores open at least a year, an industry gauge also known as same-store sales. That was below the 9.7 percent increase analysts polled by Thomson Reuters had expected.
However, Limited Brands Inc. said May same-store sales rose 5 percent, easily topping the 2.1 percent gain analysts had forecast. It forecast June same-store sales to be flat to up in the low single-digit percentage range.
So far this year, U.S. consumers have shown they are willing to open their wallets again for nice-to-have goods like clothes and furniture after focusing on basics during the recession.
But shoppers are still very selective about where and when they spend, and overall consumer sentiment has remained roughly unchanged from February.
Analysts were expecting total May same-store sales to show a rise of 2.6 percent, compared with a year-earlier decline of 4.8 percent, according to Thomson Reuters.
That would follow a lackluster 0.5 percent increase in April, when a majority of the 28 retailers tracked by Thomson Reuters missed expectations. An early Easter had prompted many consumers to shift spring shopping to March.
On Wednesday, teen apparel retailers showed a similar mix as Zumiez Inc. reported a gain of 7.1 percent, compared with the 3.6 percent increase analysts had expected. Even the highest forecast had been for a rise of 5.5 percent.
However, rival Hot Topic Inc. saw a drop of 9 percent, worse than the 8.3 percent decline analysts had expected.
Buckle also disappointed as same-store sales fell 5.4 percent, compared with a forecast for a 0.6 percent increase. Wet Seal Inc.'s sales fell 5.3 percent, and the company said results through most of May were soft in citing caution for its outlook.
Major factors that influenced shopping in May include a Memorial Day holiday that fell on the last weekend of the month. Analysts said that probably dragged sales down by a low- to mid-single-digit percentage rate, with more shopping pushed into June.
In addition, cooler weather everywhere but the Northeast, as well as heavier rain in the Northwest, hurt sales of summer apparel, analysts said.
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