By Phil Wahba
(Reuters) - January was a tough end to a tough holiday season for U.S. retailers.
Shoppers last month continued to pinch their pennies, seeking out bargains and paying fewer visits to stores. They also were unnerved by slumping stock markets and impeded from shopping by an unusually cold and snowy January that, because of high heating bills, could hurt retail sales well into the spring, analysts said.
"Consumers are being hit by a perfect storm of events," said Craig Johnson, president of advisory firm Customer Growth Partners. "It's a bloodbath."
Analysts expect a group of nine retailers that report these results on a monthly basis to show a 2 percent rise in comparable sales for January, well below the 4.9 percent growth of a year earlier, according to Thomson Reuters.
Some chains managed to register sales gains, but those came either at the expense of rivals or profit margins.
Costco Wholesale Corp
Victoria's Secret parent L Brands Inc
The consumer mood seemed to sour last month. The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan's consumer sentiment index slipped to 81.2 in January from 82.5 in December. Confidence fell acutely among households with annual incomes below $75,000.
Also in January, the Dow Jones Industrial Index <.DJI> tumbled 5.3 percent, and the Standard & Poor's 500 <.SPX> slid 3.6 percent, their worst monthly percentage declines since May 2012.
Adding to retailers' woes, the weather was unforgiving, with record cold and heavy snow last month in the Midwest and Northeast.
Sterne Agee analyst Charles Grom said higher home heating bills could crimp consumer spending "well into April."
Clothing chains that cater to teens had another dismal month in January. The Buckle
The disappointing sales results follow recent poor reports from many stores. Baird analyst Mark Altschwager estimated that comparable sales at J.C. Penney Co Inc
Getting shoppers into stores, a source of major concern for retailers during the holiday season, did not seem to improve last month. Walgreen Co
(Reporting by Phil Wahba in New York; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)