Apparel sales trend upward in May

NEW YORK — Apparel retailers across the board experienced strong sales gains in April, thanks in large part to the inclusion of Easter in this year’s reporting period, leading many to raise their quarterly earnings guidance.

Gap Inc. reported that net sales for the April reporting period were $1.15 billion compared with net sales of $1.05 billion for the four-week period last year, a 10% increase. The company’s comparable sales for April, which include the associated comparable online sales, were up 8% compared with a 2% decrease in April 2010. By division, Gap Inc. experienced the best same-store sales growth at Old Navy, which reported a 14% increase. 

“While our overall April performance was solid, we’re very focused on driving improvement across all of our businesses in North America, as we also continue to grow internationally and online,” said Glenn Murphy, chairman and CEO of Gap Inc.

Gap Inc. said it expects diluted earnings per share for the first quarter of fiscal year 2011 to be in the range of 38 cents to 39 cents with merchandise margins significantly down.

Limited Brands reported net sales of $683.2 million for the four weeks ended April 30, compared with net sales of $584.6 million last year. Same-store sales were up 20% during the month.

Limited said it now expects to report adjusted first quarter earnings per share of 37 cents to 39 cents versus its previous guidance of 26 cents to 31 cents per share, which represents a 48% to 56% increase over last year's adjusted 25 cents per share result.

Saks reported that total sales for the month of April were $257.3 million compared with $246.9 million for the same period last year, a 4.2% increase. Comparable-store sales increased 5.8% for the month. 

The company said its strongest categories during April included women’s contemporary and designer evening apparel, men’s apparel, women’s and men’s shoes, handbags, and fragrances. 

Teen retailer Wet Seal reported that net sales for April were $46.1 million, an 18.2% increase over last year. The company reported same-store sales rose 10.2%, compared with a 6.1% decline last year.

Susan McGalla, CEO commented: “We were pleased with our comparable-store sales growth in April, which was in line with our expectations. As anticipated, the later Easter holiday this year led to April being the strongest month in the quarter.”

Wet Seal said it currently estimates first quarter earnings will be 8 cents per diluted share, as compared with its prior guidance of 5 cents to 7 cents per diluted share. This increase reflects stronger merchandise margin and slightly higher sales than previously expected, the company reported.

Fellow teen retailer The Buckle reported that its net sales for April increased 18.7% to $69.4 million from net sales of $58.4 million for the prior year. Same-store sales increased 14.5%