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Retail doldrums crimp comps

New York – Even back to school and the start of the cool-weather clothing season couldn't do much to drive consumers into the malls during August; same-store retail sales remained spotty, with the Johnson Redbook monthly Flash Report showing a 2.9% gain, lagging a 3.7% increase in July and a 3.1% gain in June.

Indeed, the August Flash Report, which tracks results of 57 retailers, recorded the smallest gain since a mingy 1.9% increase in March. Almost a third of the sample, 18 of the 57 retail companies, recorded declines during August.

Of the 22 home fashions retailers tracked monthly by Home Textiles Today, recorded declines, 14 stores posted gains.

Target’s sales rose a modest 2.8%, behind a 3.1% increase during July and well off its customary pace of rapid growth. Wal-Mart's U.S. stores recorded a 2.5% gain, somewhat ahead of a 2.3% increase the preceding month.

A clear big winner in the moderate price channel was Kohl's, which pushed its same-store sales up by 5.2% — but even Kohl's couldn't match its 5.9% increase the prior month.

Results were mixed, but broadly soft, in the department-store channel, with Federated coming out on top with a 3.8% gain, besting last month's increase of 3.3%. In a surprisingly soft finish, JCPenney department stores recorded a 0.5% drop, losing ground after a 4.9% increase in July.

Bon-Ton comps dropped 5.7% following a 12.2% gain in July; Saks’ remaining department stores put up a 2.0% drop, weakening from July's 1.0% gain. And Dillard's remained in the loss column with a 1.0% drop, even though it improved on the prior month's even deeper slide of 2.9%.

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