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Back-to-school shopping helps lift retail sales 4.6 percent in July

Macy’s reported a July same-store sales increase of 5 percent, as well as a 7 percent gain for the quarter.

Associated Press

Macy’s reported a July same-store sales increase of 5 percent, as well as a 7 percent gain for the quarter.

NEW YORK — The back-to-school season got a strong start as discounts and high temperatures in July drove shoppers to air-conditioned malls.

Despite a flow of bad economic news that kept consumer confidence shaky, a number of retailers reported July revenue on Thursday that beat Wall Street estimates, including discounter Target, department store Macy's and luxury chain Saks. The International Council of Shopping Centers' preliminary tally of retailers' revenue at stores open at least a year — a key indicator of a merchant's health — was up 4.6 percent, a slower pace than June's 6.9 percent gain but in line with forecasts.

The back-to-school season is important for retailers because it accounts for 16.1 percent of annual retailers' revenues, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers.

"Overall, July sales reports were decent, but the worry is when you look further out over the next three to six months," said Michael P. Niemira, chief economist at the ICSC. "The growing economic uncertainty may take its toll on future spending."

Retailers that cater to higher-income shoppers have fared the best in the difficult economy. The biggest standout have been luxury retailers, led by Saks, which had a 15.6 percent increase for the month.

Meanwhile, those catering to the low- and middle-income shoppers have been hurt the most by the economic downturn.

Back-to-school shopping helps lift retail sales 4.6 percent in July 08/04/11 [Last modified: Thursday, August 4, 2011 9:57pm]
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