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Retailers report strong sales for January

Feb. 08, 2013 @ 12:43 AM

NEW YORK -- Sometimes, the devil is in the deals.

Americans shopped the winter clearance racks in January, resulting in strong sales during the month for retailers. But spending is expected to slow as the deals dry up, and as Americans begin to digest rising gas prices and a 2 percent payroll tax hike that started in January.

Noelle Perillo, 34, was certainly lured in by deals last month -- she spent $100 on discounted holiday ornaments, home items and clothes for her toddler son -- but she also says she may cut back going forward.

"I have what I need, and I am kind of shopped out. I'm set for now," says Perillo, a freelance public relations consultant who lives in Silver Springs, Md. "When I hear things like gas prices spiking, that's a concern."

Overall, 20 retailers reported on Thursday that revenue at stores opened at least a year -- an indicator of a store's health -- rose an average of 5.1 percent, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers. That's above the trade group's 3 percent estimate. It also marks the highest reading since last August when the figure was up 6 percent.

Retailers had already discounted heavily during the holiday season to get people to buy. January, which typically is the time when stores have clearance sales on winter merchandise to make room for spring items, caused them to slash prices even more.

But once the clearance goods disappeared last month, so did shoppers. Analysts say the absence of big discounts -- coupled with the higher payroll tax and gas prices that have risen for the past 20 days -- caused sales to taper off in the last week or so of the month. Overall though, January was good for most retailers.

Macy's said revenue rose 11.7 percent in January, nearly doubling the 6.4 percent increase analysts polled by Thomson Reuters had expected. And the retailer raised its fourth-quarter adjusted earnings forecast due to its strong performance in January.

Target Corp. reported a solid 3.1 percent increase in revenue, helped by strong sales of clearance items. Gap Inc., the owner of the Gap, Old Navy and Banana Republic chains, said its January revenue rose 8 percent on strength in its North American stores.

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