April Was Cruel

America’s retailers are sucking wind.

Some of the nation’s largest retailers reported weak same-store sales in April, adding fuel to concerns that retail spending could face a longer-term slowdown if economic woes continue to weigh on consumers.

The weakness cut across a wide swath of retailers, with everyone from discounters like Target and Wal-Mart to department stores such as Macy’s and Kohl’s reporting disappointing results for the four-week period ended May 5.


Wal-Mart said same-store sales for its U.S. Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club stores fell 3.5 percent for the April period, and it also provided a relatively soft outlook for its U.S. stores for the current month.


Target, meanwhile, said sales in April fell 6.1 percent, but the company told investors it was still on track to meet its overall financial goals for the year.


Department stores that appeal to middle-income shoppers weren’t immune from the April doldrums, but some more upscale clothing retailers fared better. Davidowitz noted that, despite the many pressures on middle- and low-income shoppers, factors such as the stock market and Bush administration tax cuts continue to benefit wealthy consumers.

Saks Inc. said same-store sales rose 11.7 percent in April, citing strength in areas such as designer sportswear and handbags.

On the other hand, Federated Department Stores Inc., parent to Macy’s, said same-store sales fell 2.2 percent, compared with a forecast that had called for sales to rise slightly during the period. The company also said same-store sales for May are expected to be flat or down 2 percent.

Kohl’s Corp. said same-store sales fell 10.5 percent for the April period, due to the expected shift in Easter sales and other factors.


More specialized retailers also were hard-hit. Clothing retailer Gap Inc. continued to struggle, reporting a 16 percent drop in comparable-store sales for April. Abercrombie & Fitch said same-store sales fell 15 percent for the period.

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