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Comp sales sagging in July

New York As heat waves across much of the country kept consumers tethered to their air-conditioned homes, and rising gas prices put even more pressure on lower-income families, same-store retail sales once again came in beneath their target during the third week of July, edging up a slender 2.1%, the Johnson Redbook Index reported.

For the three weeks month-to-date, sales increased by 2.6%, missing a targeted gain of 3.2%.

Hardest hit during a transitional month characterized by inventory clearing were department stores, where sales edged ahead by 1.7% during the third week, following a strong 3.0% gain to start the month. Discounters, with their reliance on consumables, fared better, with a 2.1% gain.

For the three weeks to date, department-store sales were u p 2.3%, missing a target of 2.8 %. Discounter sales advanced by 2.6%, but still missed the goal of a 3.4% gain.

Redbook analyst Catlin Levis said , " B y mid-August back-to-school demand is expected to inject some life into retailers. In the most recent period, retailers continued to focus on clearing summer goods and bringing in back-t o -school merchandise."

Levissaid, "Meanwhile, retailers in 13 states are gearing up for the sales-tax holidays. Retailers saw a pick-up in business inFloridawith theSaturdaysales-tax holiday kickoffforJuly 22 to 30."

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