It may have been a forgettable March for many apparel retailers, but not for Jos. A. Bank Clothiers Inc.
The Hampstead men's clothing chain reported yesterday that its sales at stores open at least a year - a key indicator for retailers - increased 11.8 percent last month over March 2001.
Bank's total sales rose 23.8 percent to $21.3 million from $17.2 million in March 2001. Combined Internet and catalog sales were up 39.9 percent.
"We are continuing to be recognized by the consumer as having quality clothing," said Robert N. Wildrick, Bank's chief executive. "We have the merchandise that they want and we have it in depth."
The company's Internet business, Wildrick added, is performing "exceptionally well."
Bank was far ahead of the sales figures posted by the apparel industry in March, which were down 0.8 percent, according to a survey of 81 of the largest retailers by Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi Ltd.
Bank's larger competitor - the Men's Wearhouse Inc. of Houston - saw its net sales rise 1.2 percent while same-store sales in its U.S. and Canadian stores declined. The chain has about 650 stores.
Unlike some retailers that typically experience a significant boost in sales before Easter - such as discounters and drug stores - Bank got only a slight gain in pre-Easter business, Wildrick said.
Preston E. Silvey, a retail analyst who follows Bank for First Dallas Securities, said Bank has done a good job of promoting its products.
"They're doing better than the typical [men's apparel retailer] because their product mix is so diversified," he said.
The company has 137 stores nationwide.
"We're getting this whole load of younger customers there now, and they're helping us grow," Wildrick said. "We're just on a roll right now and I think it'll last for another year or two, or maybe more."
Shares of Bank gained 89 cents yesterday, or 5.5 percent, to close at $17.04.