March Retail Sales Are Mixed

March business showed a slight uptick for The Buckle Inc., whose same-store sales increased 0.5 percent in a year-over-year comparison.

However, its net sales remained flat at $82.3 million, according to an April 11 statement from the Kearney, Neb.–headquartered retailer, which is focused on denim.

March same-store sales for value retailer The Cato Corp. declined 7 percent compared with last year. The company’s net sales were $87.4 million for the month, a 10 percent decrease from the previous year.

John Cato, the Charlotte, N.C.–based retailer’s chairman, president and chief executive officer, argued that March results did not tell his company’s full story. “March sales were negatively impacted by the shift of Easter from March last year to April this year,” Cato said. “Because of this shift, the best measure for performance is the combined sales for the two months.”

The Buckle Inc. and Cato Corp. are two of the last retailers who report company results monthly. In February, Zumiez Inc. and L Brands Inc. separately announced they would cease their monthly sales reports. Instead they will report quarterly sales.

It’s a marked difference from a decade ago when almost every public company reported monthly sales results. In 2008, Macy’s Inc. stopped its monthly sales reports followed by Walmart Inc.

Los Angeles retail analyst Jeff Van Sinderen of B.Riley FBR said many business executives didn’t want to sandbag investors with bad news during the Great Recession and the recovery. “Why report monthly when the metrics are negative and you don’t have much positive to say?” Van Sinderen recalled of the time.

Reporting monthly had pluses and minuses. “The monthly reporting practice consumed both analyst and management time. Monthly metrics often drove exaggerated moves in stocks, in some cases causing a whipsaw,” he said. “The lack of monthly reporting means that we don’t have ‘hard’ data points to gauge sales trends for the industry. It’s tough to know who actually is outperforming on a relative basis and who is struggling the most.”