Overheard On Wall Street: Easter Weekend Retail Roundup

Earnings reports from Nike Inc. and Finish Line Inc. kept footwear-and-apparel analysts busy this week while chatter about the macroeconomic implications of the Brussels attacks were also top of mind.

But as the week comes to a close, the next big retail catalyst — the Easter holiday weekend — is in focus.

According to the National Retail Federation’s annual Easter Spending Survey, spending for the holiday could reach $17.3 billion this year, a 13-year high. Those celebrating plan to shell out an average of $146 each on food, clothing, flowers, gifts and candy, the survey said.

Warmer weather over the next few weeks could also be a boon to retail traffic and spending.

A weekly retail report by Cowen and Co. noted that traffic is steadily improving as the calendar shifts to spring. For the third week of March, retail traffic was down 2.45 percent year-over-year, a steady improvement from the prior week’s deceleration of 4 percent, according the report.

Warmer weather across the Northeast drove the third straight week of positive traffic for the region, which should translate into early spring demand,” the report added. “We note traffic around Easter (the third and fourth weeks of March) is the more significant traffic volume to assess 1Q sales trends.”

Citi Research analyst Kate McShane also said, in a note on Monday, that her various store checks indicate that the warm winter woes that plagued retailers in Q4 are “in the rearview.”

Our checks at Finish Line and Foot Locker seem to indicate a return to normalcy as comparisons to last year looked healthier in March than they did in February,” McShane wrote. “Foot Locker’s promotions were limited with 5 percent of the store on sale and [an] average markdown of 25 percent; less than 1 percent was on clearance.”

Under Armour and Jordan product were full price, the analyst noted. McShane estimated that about 5 percent of Nike product was marked down by 25 percent.

The percentage of markdowns at Finish Line, although above Foot Locker, was lower than we’ve seen over the past 12 months with 15 percent on sale (average markdown of 30 percent); clearance (5 percent) consisted mainly of leftover cold weather items (hats/socks),” McShane said.

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