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Same store sales finish short of July goals

New York -- Following a long stretch of the summer doldrums as consumers held on to their wallets and shunned the malls, same-store retail sales firmed up as July drew to a close, and rose by 2.8%during the fourth and final week of the month, the Johnson Redbook Index reported.

But it wasn't enough to make up for earlier weakness, and July sales fell well short of their target, up 2.7%, shy of an expected gain of 3.2%.

Both channels made a stronger showing during the close, with department stores up 2.0%, improving on a 1.7% increase the week before. Discounters did even better, up 3.3% during the closing week, well ahead of the prior week's gain of 2.3%.

Both channels missed their target for all of July. Department stores were hardest hit, moving up by 2.2%, falling short of a hoped for 2.8% gain. With their reliance on day-to-day consumables that households need, discounters fared better, sales up 3.0%, against a target of 3.4%.

Hoping for more from the back-to-school season, Redbook analyst Catlin Levis said her preliminary sales target for the four-week month of August is a same-store increase of 3.5%, or about 0.5% ahead of July.