By Phil Wahba
(Reuters) - Sales at many major U.S. retailers rose in February, as shoppers ventured out later in the month after a dismal start when ice, cold and snow kept many of them at home.
Costco Wholesale Corp
The unusually cold, snowy weather that slammed retailers in January continued into the first half of February, including an ice storm that idled much of the Southeast for days.
Excluding drugstores, the Thomson Reuters Same Store Sales Index, which tracks a group of major retailers, registered a 0.3 percent increase for February, missing analyst projections for a 1.9 percent rise.
The S&P 500 Retail Index closed down 0.5 percent on Thursday, while the broader S&P 500 <.SPX> rose 0.2 percent.
But sales trends improved as the weather got better and many U.S. consumers got tax refunds, said John Cato, chief executive of discount clothing chain Cato Corp.
Last week, the chief executives of department store chain Macy's Inc
"Bring on the spring, and you'll see a much improved consumer spending pace, said Michael Niemira, chief economist of the International Council of Shopping Centers.
He reiterated his expectation for consumer spending to keep improving this year as the job market and economy gain strength.
A later Easter this year will dent March sales but help overall sales for the season as weather is less likely to disrupt shopping, Niemira said. Easter is on April 20 this year.
Shoppers kept gravitating to deals last month.
Teen apparel Zumiez Inc
Off-price retailer Stein Mart Inc
The Children's Place Retail Stores Inc
Costco also reported its full-quarter results, that showed unusually deep discounting in the holiday shopping season hurt margins, and its shares fell 3.2 percent.
(Reporting by Phil Wahba in New York; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)