April 11 - Chilly weather cooled monthly sales for several top retailers in March- adding to fears consumer spending is slowing due to higher taxes and a sluggish jobs market. Bobbi Rebell reports.
Cold weather and job jitters trumped lower gas prices in March- as consumers held off shopping at some of the nation's biggest chain stores. Same store sales up just 1.9 percent in March- the worst showing since September of 2009 for retailers. And it's tough to forecast if the consumer will warm up when the weather does. Mike Niemira is the Chief Economist at the International Council of Shopping Centers. SOUNDBITE: MIKE NIEMIRA, CHIEF ECONOMIST, INTERNATIONAL COUNCIL OF SHOPPING CENTERS (ENGLISH) SAYING: "On the one hand, you have a very low savings rate and you have sluggish employment growth. On the other hand you have a booming stock market, home prices helping. So you have a very mixed set of indicators that consumers are dealing with." Overall he does think April will be better- as consumers start to spend the extra money they have from lower gas prices- and more tax refund money gets into consumers' hands. Investors also seem optimistic: Thursday, the S&P Retail Index touched a one-year high. Some retailers also have a sunny outlook: TJX reported a worse-than-expected same-store decline- but the company says business has improved since the weather warmed up. Already bright: retailers like Victoria's secret parent L brands- which reported higher-than-expected sales at all of its chains. And after the bell: Gap turned in better than expected results-its Banana Republic division was its strongest performer. Thomson Reuters Director of Consumers Research Jharonne Martis: SOUNDBITE: JHARONNE MARTIS, DIRECTOR OF CONSUMER RESEARCH, THOMSON REUTERS (ENGLISH) SAYING: "Banana Republic introduced a brand new collection inspired by the TV hit series show Mad Men, and we visited the flagship store, and only three garments were left out of the entire 50 piece collection, which shows that the garments are flying off the shelves because consumers are responding very well to the collection." But for retailers that consumers are not responding to- blaming a lukewarm performance on the weather will no longer be an excuse as the weather heats up this spring.