U.S. retailers say business picked up later in February
By Phil Wahba
(Reuters) - Sales for many U.S. retailers rose in February, as shoppers ventured out later in the month after a dismal start when ice, cold and snow kept many of them at home.
Costco Wholesale Corp (COST.O: Quote) on Thursday said U.S. sales at stores open at least a year rose 3 percent, while L Brands Inc (LB.N: Quote) reported a better-than-expected 2 percent rise, lifted by gains at its Victoria's Secret lingerie chain.
The unusually cold and snowy weather that slammed retailers in January continued into February, including an ice storm that idled much of the Southeast for days.
But sales trends improved as the weather got better and many U.S. consumers got tax refunds, said John Cato, chief executive of discount clothing chain Cato Corp. (CATO.N: Quote)
Last week, the chief executives of department store chain Macy's Inc (M.N: Quote) and jeweler Zale Corp ZLC.N also reported much brisker business after Valentine's Day.
"Bring on the spring and you'll see a much improved consumer spending pace, said Michael Niemira, chief economist of the International Council of Shopping Centers.
He re-iterated his expectation for consumer spending to keep improving this year as the job market and economy gain strength.
A later Easter this year will dent March sales but help overall sales for the season as weather is less likely to disrupt shopping, Niemira said. Easter is on April 20 this year. Continued...