Stores Get Back-To-School Bump After All


With strong performances by such brands as Victoria's Secret, Macy's, Nordstrom, and Costco, retailers posted somewhat better-than-expected results for the month of August.  

Despite experts' concerns that consumers were spending less as economic news worsened over the summer, Kantar Retail says that retail sales grew by 3.4% in August -- better than the 2.9% same-store sales gain last month, and a happy improvement from the 2.4% decline in August of last year. The International Council of Shopping Centers says its index, which tracks a slightly different group of stores, posted a 3.2% year-over-year comparable-store gain, slightly above expectations.

Limited was a standout, with same-store sales gaining 10% for the month. The Columbus, Ohio-based retailer says the gains came from a 15% same-store jump at its Victoria's Secret unit, fueled by a bra and fragrance launch as well as steady back-to-school gains in its Pink collection.



At Bath & Body Works, also owned by Limited, same-store sales gained 2%. Other specialty retailers showing good results were Zumiez, up 9.1%, discounter Stein Mart, up 8.5%; and Abercrombie & Fitch, up 6%.

Department stores -- regaining some favor with shoppers for back-to-school duds -- had a solid month. Luxury retail Nordstrom says its same-store sales gained 6.3%, and at Kohl's, they advanced 4.5%. At Macy's, same-store sales rose 4.3%.

In a release, the company says Material Girl -- the just-launched exclusive juniors brand by Madonna -- turned in a "great performance," as has American Rag, its largest private-label brand for juniors and young men.

Costco's comparable-store sales rose 7%, BJ's Wholesale Club 2.4%, and Target 1.8%.

"August sales held up relatively well because shoppers' intention to curb their spending plans was outweighed by their back-to-school needs, especially when they scrimped on meeting those needs a year ago," Kantar Retail says in its report.

But despite the August bounce, it predicts "retail sales may be hard-pressed to sustain their boost from back-to-school spending, given a turnaround in shoppers' spending intentions in August compared with July."

In August, it says, its ongoing ShopperScape survey found that the percentage of shoppers planning to spend less in the coming month compared with the same period a year ago increased to 38%, a bump that was uniform among all income groups.

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