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Retail Trends

Apparel Retailers

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Good or bad times in the national economy don’t seem to faze customers of TJX Companies’ Marmaxx division, including T.J. Maxx and Marshalls. The division is coming off a good year in which the top-performing merchandise categories were dresses, menswear, shoes and accessories.

The company expects to keep the ball rolling. “We are extremely pleased that our strong momentum continued into the first quarter” of 2012, says TJX CEO Carol Meyrowitz. “Consolidated comparable store sales increased 8 percent and earnings per share were up 41 percent” over last year, and there have been “significant increases in customer traffic” so far this year.

“We are convinced that we will continue to grow our customer base with our compelling values, more powerful marketing and upgraded shopping experience,” Meyrowitz says. Plans for 2012 call for adding about 85 net new stores, increasing selling space about 4 percent.

No. 2 apparel power player Gap has been struggling for a number of years and is in the midst of a campaign in North America that will see some 20 stores shuttered by the end of next year. The move has caused problems for shopping center operators like Simon Property Group, General Growth Properties and CBL & Associates, for which Gap, Banana Republic and Old Navy represent the largest specialty store tenants by rent.

Gap may be turning the corner, however: Earlier this year the company saw first-quarter numbers at least even with the same period in 2011. That was encouraging enough for the company to boost its earnings forecast for this year to $1.83 a share, higher than its original forecast of $1.80 in February.