January sales adds more uncertainty to Walmart’s Q4

Retail sales during January offered a mix bag of results and made it rather tricky to determine how much results were influenced by harsh winter weather, gift card redemption rates, a still shaky economic recovery and individual company strategies.

A 1.7% same store sales increase at Target was below the company’s expectations, yet chairman, president and CEO Gregg Steinhafel maintained that the company’s major remodeling effort to add fresh food to existing stores and a 5% rewards program were generating results in line with expectations. Exceeding estimates was Costco, which produced a 6% same-store sales gain at its U.S. clubs that was aided to the tune of 200 basis points by gas price inflation. A big winner during the month was Limited’s Victoria’s Secret division, which posted a 24% comp increase.

In other apparel sector news, Gap’s same-store sales in January rose 1%, Wet Seal reported a 6.2% gain, and comps at the Buckle rose 4.3%. Other notables included Hot Topic, up 3.3%, Zumiez, up 15%, Aeropostale, up 1%, and American Eagle, down 6%.

Dillard’s was the clear winner in the department store category in January, posting a same-store sales increase of 6%, while Macy’s was up 2.6%, Kohl’s was up 1.4%, and JCPenney declined 1.2%.