Analysts anticipate weak March retail sales

Analysts say cool weather, stores closed for Easter may lead to chilly retail sales in March

Associated Press

Cool weather and an earlier Easter this year may put a chill on retailer's sales for March, according to a number of analysts.

The Commerce Department reports on retail sales Friday.

When the weather is colder than usual, consumers may be more inclined to stay home or show less interest in the warm-weather clothing that stores stock in March. And the weak economy is still weighing on shoppers. One measure of consumer confidence fell last month to 59.7, from 68 in February.

The country's average temperature was colder every week last month than in March 2012, said Sterne Agee analyst Ike Boruchow in a note Monday. He also said that retailers ran more promotions and stores closed for Easter in March this year rather than in April. He expects sales to improve this month, but still is concerned that the slower March sales mean that stores will have piles of clothing they'll have to discount to sell, hurting profitability.

March sales were also hurt by consumers still worried about the economy, said Janney Capital Markets analyst Adrienne Tennant. She said teen retailers were the most affected by colder weather last month because they rely on students shopping during their March spring breaks. She's more optimistic about April spending.

Despite analysts' reservations, retailers were generally higher Monday along with the broader market. The Standard & Poor's 500 index closed up 0.6 percent

— Gap Inc.: Up 35 cents to close at $36.85. Shares are at the upper end of its 52-week trading range of $25.02 to $37.85

— Zumiez Inc.: Up 30 cents to $25.05. The stock has traded from $17.93 to $41.96 in the past 52 weeks.

— TJX Cos.: Up 31 cents to $47.45. Its shares are near the top of its 52-week trading range of $38.56 to $47.58.

— Abercrombie & Fitch Co.: Up 78 cents to $49.46. Shares are nearing the upper end of its 52-week trading range of $28.64 to $54.05.

— Urban Outfitters Inc.: Up 71 cents to $40.68. Its shares are nearing the higher end of its 52-week trading range of $25.43 to $44.15.

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