February 9, 2005--Despite a month of cataclysmic weather, January same-store sales were up more than experts predicted, according to a new study released last week.

According to the study, released by the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC), retail same-store sales, sales in stores open for at least one calendar year, were up 3.6% nationwide, ahead of industry predictions.

"Despite horrible weather, on both coasts, January sales were pretty strong," Patrice Duker, a spokesperson for the ICSC said. "This is a good way to start things off."

Bebe Stores Inc., American Eagle Outfitters Inc. and Talbots Inc. all showed double-digit increases, coming in at 29%, 22% and 13% respectively. All exceeded predictions.

According to Duker, January is traditionally a slow month for sellers, as stores tend to put holiday items on clearance to clear up space, the weather generally gets colder and people tend to think more of their credit card bills instead of sales at their favorite stores. But gift cards have heated up the year's coldest retail month.

According to the study, gift card sales were 10% to 13% of all retail sales during the 2004 holiday season, accounting for about $20 billion, up from 8% to 10% in 2003. Gift card sales are not counted upon purchase but instead when they are redeemed.

Retail giants Wal-Mart (3.2%), Dollar General (5.1%) and Target (9.4%) all showed increases as well. Gap Inc. owner of Gap, Banana Republic and Old Navy chains posted a disappointing 7% decrease same-store sales. The study, released every month since December 2003, surveyed 72 chains chosen by the ICSC -- on-line sales are not included.