Why I Am Pooh-Poohing 4.7% Higher Same-Store Sales

Includes: CVS, FLWS, JCP, KR, M, WFM
by: Markos Kaminis

It sounds fantastic! Retailers reported weekly same-store sales increased by 4.7% week-to-week in the period ending March 30. That is great news, right? No, it's not, and here's why.

The International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) reported same-store sales rose 4.7% week-to-week in the March 30 period. On a year-over-year basis, sales were up 1.9%, though Redbook saw the yearly comparison for the period even better, at plus 3.5%. Perhaps readers suspect we might pooh-pooh the news by attributing the sales growth to discounters like Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) or to online sellers like Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN), due to their stealing of market share from the Macy's (NYSE:M) and J.C. Penneys (NYSE:JCP) of the world. No, that's not it. So what's wrong with the numbers then?

Well, a peak at the prior week's results offers a clue. In the week ending March 23, the ICSC reported same-store sales were down 1.7% week-to-week. The yearly comparisons were likewise poor, with sales only 1.0% higher, according to the ICSC and 2.6% higher, according to Redbook. The reason is really rather simple.

It's about the Easter holiday and where it sits on the calendar this year versus last year. This year, Easter fell on March 31st, and last year, it fell on April 8th. Sales were strong in the week of Easter and Passover because of the surge of seasonal sales tied to the holidays, not all of which are accounted for perfectly. Consider all the flowers 1-800-Flowers.com Inc. (NASDAQ:FLWS) sells and all the Easter Baskets CVS Caremark (NYSE:CVS) sells, all the Easter Bonnets Macy's sells and all the new dresses J.C. Penney sells. Let's not forget the Easter and Passover meals that lead families to gather together, and the necessary shopping at Kroger (NYSE:KR) and Whole Foods Market (NASDAQ:WFM).

For this reason, sales picked up in the week before Easter as they do every year. From this understanding, we garner insight about next week as well, because last year, the week incorporated Easter shopping and this year, it will not. Thus, these same-store sales reports should show poor comparable results on a weekly and yearly basis when reported next Tuesday.

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it. I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.