Words & Data: Cary Allington

January sales were up by 1.5% in the core shops on the ActionWatch same-store retail panel, which is the largest sales increase in the panel since June last year. Apparel sales growth was the highest with men's and boys' sales up more than 3% and women's and girls' apparel sales up by nearly 8% compared to January last year. While sales of women's tops and tees were down, sales growth of many other female apparel product classes more than made up the difference, particularly in shorts, dresses, skirts, jackets, and sweaters.

The men's side of the store again saw strong sales growth with tanks, along with jackets, sweaters, non-denim pants, shorts and boardshorts. Sales of denim and tees were down for both genders.

Although footwear sales overall were down for the female gender in January, this decline was driven by a drop in sales of sandals and boots while shoe sales were flat. Male shoe sales growth was quite strong for the more athletic-inspired "sport" shoe class.

Accessory sales were also up in January with growth coming from sunglasses, hats, belts, wallets and socks. Sock sales growth continued in the high double digits just as we saw throughout 2012.

There was a bit of a reversal in sales growth patterns within the hardgoods category in January. We had been watching sales declines in skate hardgoods for many months in 2012, but January turned things around with skate hardgoods showing a small gain while surf hardgoods declined compared to the same month last year. The hardgoods category overall was slightly down.

Although January is a relatively low volume sales month for the average store on the ActionWatch retail panel, it was still nice to see a positive growth number and gives us hope that we could see more year-over-year growth as we move into the higher volume months of spring and summer.

The ActionWatch Retail Panel includes 250 surf/skate independent specialty shops across the U.S. and is growing rapidly as more retailers join the free program. Retailers who participate get free access to a set of 50 reports updated each month. Retailers interested in joining the ActionWatch Retail Panel can get more information at www.ActionWatch.com.

All ActionWatch reports are made from the aggregated data of the participating retailers, which are located throughout the U.S. and vary in size from 750-square-foot shops to stores over 10,000 square feet. Data is collected monthly from electronic reports submitted by participating retailers.