August sales weather hurricane, low consumer confidence

NEW YORK — Despite low consumer confidence, the volatile economy and a hurricane, many retailers reported better-than-expected sales in August. Hurricane Irene appeared to put a dent in the results of some retailers on the East Coast, but the storm did not appear to do as serious damage as some expected.

Total retail sales rose 4.4%, just missing the 4.6% rise that Wall Street analysts had expected, according to Thomson Reuters. Of the 19 out of the 25 retailers that Thomson Reuters tracks, 11 beat expectations.

The biggest winners include Costco Wholesale Club, with an 11% rise in same-store sales, and BJ’s Wholesale Club, where sales rose 11.5%.

On the apparel front, Limited Brands' same-store sales climbed 11% in August, beating analysts' expectations for a 7.6% rise.

The company, whose stores include Bath & Body Work and Victoria's Secret, said Thursday that revenue for the four weeks ended Aug. 27 increased 11 percent to $702.4 million from $630.3 million.

At Gap, same-store sales fell 6% on disappointing sales across its brands, led by a decline at its namesake stores. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected a decline of 3.8%. Total revenue fell 3% to $1.1 billion.

Same-store sales at Gap North America plunged 8%, its six straight decline. Sales at Banana Republic and Old Navy both fell 4%.

"As we said on our recent earnings call with investors, we're determined to make the necessary adjustments to women's product and marketing to improve our overall performance and drive top-line growth going forward," said Glenn Murphy, chairman and CEO of Gap.

In other apparel same-store sales results for August:

  • The Buckle’s sales rose 8.3%, nearly double the growth analysts had predicted.

  • Wet Seal said that sales climbed 5.5%, beating analysts' estimates. The results were driven by a 7.3% increase at the company's 461 namesake stores. The smaller Arden B division, which has 84 stores, drove down the combined results with an 8.7%.

  • At The Cato Corp., same-store sales decreased 3%.