February Tough for Many

February proved to be a tough month for many retailers.

Same-store sales plummeted 23.2 percent for The Buckle Inc., a long-suffering retailer headquartered in Kearney, Neb. Cato Corp., an off-pricer headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., also posted a similar decline of 25 percent. John Cato, Cato’s chairman, president and chief executive officer, said that the declines “were significantly lower due to delayed tax refunds.” Cato operates 1,371 stores in 33 states.

L Brands—the parent company of Victoria’s Secret, Pink and Henri Bendel—also reported a tough February. Its same-store sales for the month showed a decline of 13 percent. The company claimed that the decline was a casualty of its exit from swim and apparel categories.

Erratic weather throughout the United States—a week of cold weather was followed by a week of warm weather in some places—made it tough to plan wardrobes, and many consumers gave up trying to buy new clothes for the erratic weather, said Jeff Van Sinderen, a retail analyst for B. Riley & Co. in Los Angeles.

February business was tough because many shoppers were saving their money to spend during the Easter season. The Easter holiday falls on April 15 this year. The economy remains tough for many.

“We’re coming off of a quarter that was challenging for many retailers; there’s a certain amount of shell shock out there,” Van Sinderen said. “You have a lot of bankruptcy going on, and there will be a lot more. This will be a year of change in retail.”

Good news came from quarterly reports from major off-pricers. Burlington Stores Inc. announced its comparable-store sales for its fiscal 2016 fourth quarter March 2. Its same-store sales increased 4.6 percent. Ross Stores Inc. reported Feb. 28 that its same-store sales that increased 4 percent for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2016.

Barbara Rentler, Ross’s chief executive officer, was pleased with the results, but in her guidance for the upcoming fiscal year, she forecast turbulence.

“There continues to be uncertainty in the political, macro-economic and retail climates, and we also face our own challenging sales and earnings comparisons. Thus, while we hope to do better, we believe it is prudent to remain somewhat cautious in planning our business for the 2017 fiscal year,” Rentler said.

For the first quarter of the 2017 fiscal year, Ross’ same-store sales are forecast to increase 1 percent to 2 percent.

Zumiez Inc., a Seattle area–headquartered mall retailer, is scheduled to report its February sales on March 9. Gap Inc. recently reported that it would stop reporting its monthly results. The retail giant will report its sales quarterly.