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The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Costco Wholesale, L Brands, Gap, Zumiez and Buckle

CHICAGO, April 14, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Zacks.com announces the list of stocks featured in the Analyst Blog. Every day the Zacks Equity Research analysts discuss the latest news and events impacting stocks and the financial markets. Stocks recently featured in the blog include the Costco Wholesale Corp. (Nasdaq:COST-Free Report), L Brands, Inc. (NYSE:LB-Free Report), Gap, Inc. (NYSE:GPS-Free Report), Zumiez, Inc. (Nasdaq:ZUMZ-Free Report) and Buckle, Inc. (NYSE:BKE-Free Report).

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Here are highlights from Friday's Analyst Blog:

Will April Turn After Soft March Comps?

After a soft comparable-store sales performance in March, all eyes are on April. As retailers continued to grapple with cold weather in March, spring merchandise moved slowly from the shelves. In fact, retailers are still reeling under margin pressure as promotional activities undertaken during a soft holiday season as well as adverse weather conditions in January and February played spoilsport. Moreover, a shift in the Easter holiday also subdued March sales.

Although comps showed improvement over February, the growth was not enough to alleviate the tough year-over-year comparison, as the prior-year period benefited from Easter holiday on March 31 that shifted to April 20 this year.

Data compiled by Retail Metrics Inc. revealed that comparable-stores sales during March increased 3.5% from the projected 2.5%. However, excluding the healthy comparable-store sales performance of Costco Wholesale Corp. (Nasdaq:COST-Free Report), sales grew 1.6%, the retail research firm stated.

Costco emerged strongly, posting comparable-store sales growth of 5%, when most retailers witnessed soft sales. Retailers such as L Brands, Inc. (NYSE:LB-Free Report), The Gap, Inc. (NYSE:GPS-Free Report) and Zumiez, Inc. (Nasdaq:ZUMZ-Free Report) saw their comparable-store sales declining 1%, 6% and 2.9%, respectively, during March. On the other hand, The Buckle, Inc. (NYSE:BKE-Free Report) registered a comps decline of 1.8%.   

Now the question is whether April will bring showers of good fortune for retailers after soft comparable-store sales in March. We foresee an answer in the affirmative, and there are factors that also echo the same. A quick analysis will give a clearer picture.

Analysts remained optimistic about a sales surge in April due to increasing consumer spending activity, given moderating weather conditions, pent-up demand on account of Easter and higher disposable income because of tax refunds. Moreover, the unemployment rate of 6.7%, hovering near the Fed's target and consumer confidence moving north also validates a better scenario for April. The recent Conference Board's data showed that Consumer Confidence Index improved to 82.3 in March from 78.3 in February.

Thus overall situation seems to be rebounding and could result a pickup in store traffic and online sales. International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) anticipates comparable-store sales increase of 3.5% to 4% in April, while National Retail Federation projects total Easter spending to reach $15.9 billion. But how far the month of April will prove favorable for retailers, is a wait-and-see story.

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Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Inherent in any investment is the potential for loss. This material is being provided for informational purposes only and nothing herein constitutes investment, legal, accounting or tax advice, or a recommendation to buy, sell or hold a security. No recommendation or advice is being given as to whether any investment is suitable for a particular investor. It should not be assumed that any investments in securities, companies, sectors or markets identified and described were or will be profitable. All information is current as of the date of herein and is subject to change without notice. Any views or opinions expressed may not reflect those of the firm as a whole. Zacks Investment Research does not engage in investment banking, market making or asset management activities of any securities. These returns are from hypothetical portfolios consisting of stocks with Zacks Rank = 1 that were rebalanced monthly with zero transaction costs. These are not the returns of actual portfolios of stocks. The S&P 500 is an unmanaged index. Visit http://www.zacks.com/performance for information about the performance numbers displayed in this press release.

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