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Retail sales up healthy 3.9% in May

May 31, 2012|By Shan Li
  • Shoppers browse for summer clothes in Los Angeles
Shoppers browse for summer clothes in Los Angeles (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles…)

Despite slower job gains and signs of flagging consumer confidence, consumers hit the malls in May to refresh their wardrobes as the summer shopping season begins.

Major chain stores posted a 3.9% sales increase in May compared with the same month a year earlier, beating analysts' expectations of a 3.6% rise, according to Thomson Reuters' tally of 18 retailers.

Top performers were a mixture of high- and low-end stores. Action-sports chain Zumiez Inc. led the way with a 13.7% bump. Luxury retailer Nordstrom Inc. saw sales rise 5.3%. Benefiting from a continuing thrifty mindset, off-price retailers Ross Stores Inc. and TJX Cos. saw an 8% rise. Limited Brands, parent company of Victoria's Secret and Bath & Body Works, said sales rose 6%.

The healthy May jump in sales comes on the heels of a poor April when more than half of retailers posted lower-than-expected results.

Some retailers did not fare as well. Struggling teen clothier Wet Seal said sales fell 8.8%, while department store chain Kohl's Corp. reported a 4.2% drop.

All told, about 69% of retailers beat expectations, Thomson Reuters said.

Analysts said recent signs of smaller job gains were balanced out with Mother's Day promotions and falling gas prices, which prompted some people to reopen their wallets for summer apparel.

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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