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Retail sales wilt in August

New York — With consumers unnerved by a spotty job market and an uncertain economy, and Back-to-School sales falling beneath expectations, same-store retail sales for all of August fell 1.7 percent beneath July's already debilitated level, according to the Redbook Retail Sales Average.

The August drop was substantially steeper than a targeted decline of 0.4 percent.

Measured against August 2001, same-store sales were virtually flat, edging up just 0.1 percent, and falling well short of a forecast increase of 1.5 percent.

Department stores and full-price retailers were particularly hard hit during August, with sales falling off by 5.2 percent from year-ago levels, compared with a targeted drop of 3.4 percent. But even discounters were sharing the pain last month, with sales falling short of the mark. Discounter same-store sales edged up by 3.6 percent but missed a target of 4.6 percent growth.