Consumers Shopped Cautiously in April

New York City Apparel chains struggled through another dismal month in April, but discounters fared well as consumers searched for bargains to buy necessities.

Chains selling must-have items like food and milk at a discount -- such as Wal-Mart Stores and Costco Wholesale -- were standouts.

Many retailers have struggled in recent months as consumers pare spending on less essential items in light of soaring gasoline prices and grocery bills.

Wal-Mart said same-store sales rose 3.2% in April, excluding fuel sales -- topping the average analyst estimate of 2.1% growth, according to Reuters Estimates. Meanwhile, Costco posted an 8% increase in April same-store sales, while total sales climbed 12% to $5.54 billion.

Children's Place Retail Stores said April same-store sales surged 15%. Analysts had expected same-store sales to rise 5.3%, according to Reuters Estimates.

Pacific Sunwear of California said same-store sales climbed 4%. Meanwhile, Limited Brands said April same-store sales fell by a wider-than-expected 5%. Analysts, on average, had expected a same-store sales decline of 2.5%.

Some companies benefited from Easter falling in March, meaning retailers had an extra day of possible sales during April. The holiday fell on March 23 this year, the earliest Easter since 1913.

Warmer weather during the first half of the month drove a brief spike in demand for spring and summer apparel. However, cold and stormy weather toward the end of the month crimped monthly totals for some chains.

The cold snap made for the coldest April in eight years, according to Weather Trends International.