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Cold weather puts chill on March sales

NEW YORK — L.Brands, parent of Victoria's Secret, reported better-than-expected 3% sales in same-store sales for March. Zumiez Inc. and Buckle Inc. also both reported better-than-expected numbers.

But other retailers were hampered by a colder-than-normal March, which caused many shoppers to put off buying warmer-weather clothing, and an early Easter. At The TJX Companies, same-store sales fell 2% in March, a bigger drop than was expected.

 “Due to the year-over-year timing of Easter, we had not planned March to be a strong month against last year’s high increase, and our comparable store sales were in line with our expected range,” said Carol Meyrowitz, CEO, TJX Companies, Inc. “This was despite the extraordinarily cold weather across most regions in the U.S., Canada and Europe. In regions of the U.S. where weather was not an issue, we saw comp sales increases. Further, overall business trends improved as the weather became warmer.”

Cato Corp. said its March same-store sales were down 11% hurt by the fact that Easter fell earlier on the calendar than last year. It said it expects a corresponding benefit when it reports April sales next month, and that looking at its two-month combined results will be the best way to measure its sales trend.

Stein Mart Inc. said its same-store sales fell 2.8% in March, falling short of Wall Street predictions. The company said sales were hurt by cold weather and an earlier Easter holiday.

"This year, more than ever, it will be important to combine March and April sales results to get a true picture of our spring selling season due to this year's Easter calendar shift," said CEO Jay Stein.

Fred's Inc. said its sales fell 3%, more than expected. The discounter cited cool weather and the timing shift in the Easter holiday.