By Anne D’Innocenzio
AP Retail Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — Americans spent briskly during the early spring months in the latest sign that they’re encouraged by the economic recovery.
Falling gas prices, a rallying stock market and gains in the job market all fueled Americans’ shopping habits even as cold weather tempered their desire to buy spring fashions.
Revenue at stores open at least a year — an industry measure of a store’s health because it excludes results from stores recently opened and closed — rose 4.7 percent in April compared with the same month a year ago, according to a preliminary tally of 12 retailers by the International Council of Shopping Centers trade group.
That continues a trend that Americans started in early spring. In March, revenue rose 2.2 percent. And for the combined months of March and April, the figure rose 3.5 percent.
“April turned out to be decent despite adverse weather conditions,” said Michael P. Niemira, chief economist at the ICSC.
While big chains such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Target Corp and Macy’s Inc. don’t report monthly revenue, the stores that do offer economists a snapshot of consumer spending habits. In total, the retailers that report monthly data represent about 6 percent of the $2.4 trillion in U.S. retail industry sales.
Among the big winners for April were Ross Stores Inc. and TJX Cos., which operates TJ Maxx and Marshalls stores. Both companies benefited from Americans’ desire to buy brand-name fashions at discounted prices.
Ross said on Thursday that revenue at stores open at least a year rose 7 percent during April, helped by consumer demand for its low-price clothing and accessories. That’s above Wall Street estimates: Analysts expected a 5.8 percent increase in April, according to a Thomson Reuters poll.
TJX said that revenue at stores opened at least a year climbed 8 percent in April on strong customer traffic. That also tops the 6.8 percent increase that analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected.
“Consumers responded to our extremely fresh selections of branded spring apparel,” said Carol Meyrowitz, CEO of TJX in a statement.
But a few retailers posted gains that missed Wall Street estimates.
Costco Wholesale Corp., which accounts for about two-thirds of the retail sales tally, reported that revenue at stores open at least a year climbed 4 percent in April. That’s below the 4.5 percent increase analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected the warehouse club-operator to report.
Limited posted a 2 percent increase in revenue at stores opened at least a year. Revenue was hurt by the shift of some spring-break business into March due to an early Easter.