After splurging on back-to-school, shoppers took a break from the malls in September in advance of what is expected to be a decent holiday season.
Major chains posted a 0.8% increase in retail sales in September compared with the same month a year earlier, slightly below analysts' expectations of a 1.6% rise, according to Thomson Reuters' tally of 19 retailers.
"The holiday season will be a solid success but won't have numbers off the charts," said Barbara Kahn, director of the Jay H. Baker Retailing Center at the University of Pennsylvania. "August and September together shows continued moderate growth. Consumers have been shopping."
Top performers were a broad mix of stores. Discount chain Costco Wholesale Corp., clothing giant Gap Inc. and off-price retailer TJX Cos. all reported a strong 6% jump. Action-sports teen retailer Zumiez continued a long streak of good performances by rising 5.6%. And Limited Brands, parent company of Victoria's Secret and Bath & Body Works, saw sales increase 5%.