By Phil Wahba
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Many large U.S. retailers slashed their earnings forecasts on Thursday because of steep discounts they offered during the holidays to persuade reluctant consumers.
The discounts boosted overall industry sales but hurt profits at many chains, including L Brands Inc
Fewer store visits and aggressive pricing at the start of the season by big retailers like Amazon.com Inc
"The discounts needed to be deeper, and they needed to be longer," said Joel Bines, managing director of consulting firm AlixPartners.
The discounts did result in a stronger-than-expected 2.7 percent increase in December sales at the eight retailers tracked by the Thomson Reuters Same-Store Sales Index.
Still, L Brands cut its holiday-quarter profit forecast on disappointing December sales at its Victoria Secret and La Senza chains.
While L Brands' sales at stores open at least year rose 2 percent last month, Wall Street had been expecting a gain of 3.7 percent, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. The company's shares fell more than 4 percent.
Zumiez reported an unexpected drop in same-store sales.
Shares of Signet, which is not part of the same-store sales index, were down more than 6 percent even though it reported a 5 percent increase in U.S. same-store sales for the November-December holiday season.
DEALS, AND MORE DEALS
Between November 3 and January 4, eight retailers, including Wal-Mart Stores Inc
Retailers also had to deal with shoppers who were less willing to go into stores: Data firm ShopperTrak this week said foot traffic had dropped 14.6 percent this holiday season.
Small clothing chain Cato Corp
Still, some retailers offering staples at low prices fared well. Warehouse club chain Costco Wholesale Corp
American Eagle Outfitters Inc
Family Dollar's same-store sales fell 3 percent last month.
American Eagle and Family Dollar are not part of the same-store sales index.
(Reporting by Phil Wahba in New York; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)