Young shoppers browse for summer clothes in Los Angeles. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles…)
Consumers worried about the economy appeared more cautious about buying in June, prompting concerns about a possible slowdown in spending just ahead of the back-to-school shopping season.
Major chain stores posted a weak 0.1% sales increase in June compared with the same month a year earlier, below analysts' expectations of a 0.5% rise, according to Thomson Reuters' tally of 20 retailers.
"Volatility is the word that best describes the June performance," said Michael Niemira, chief economist for the International Council of Shopping Centers. "Weather was one factor that was cited as a drag on the overall performance, but some retailers pointed to broader economic uncertainty as well."
Top performers were a mixture of high- and low-end stores. Action-sports chain Zumiez Inc. led the way with an 8.2% increase. Luxury department store Nordstrom posted an 8.1% rise. Discounters fared especially well, with off-price retailers Ross Stores Inc. and TJX Cos. both reporting a strong 7% increase and Costco Wholesale Corp. seeing sales rise 3%.
Other retailers did not fare as well. Struggling teen clothier Wet Seal said sales fell 9%, while Kohl's Corp. reported a 4.2% drop.
Retailers are looking ahead to the back-to-school season, which begins this month and is typically the second-largest sales driver of the year (after the year-end holidays), accounting for more than 10% of the industry's annual sales.
Results are based on sales at stores open at least a year, known as same-store sales and considered an important measure of a retailer's health because it excludes the effect of stores' openings and closings.
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