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Retailers post modest gains for September

NEW YORK — Several retailers reported modest sales gains for September as shoppers who were worried about a partial government shutdown and the overall economy pulled back their spending from August.

The results increase concerns about how shoppers will spend during the crucial holiday season, the largest selling period for retailers.

Revenue at stores open at least a year — a measure of a retailer's health— rose 2.7 percent in September, according to a preliminary tally of nine retailers by the International Council of Shopping Centers. That was a slower pace than the 3.5 percent increase posted in August.

L Brands, the parent of Victoria's Secret, and Costco Wholesale were among the chains that reported results that missed Wall Street estimates, while Stein Mart posted results that beat analysts' expectations.

Only a sliver of retail chains report monthly sales figures, and the list doesn't include Wal-Mart stores, Macy's and many other large chains. But it offers some clues into consumer spending heading into the holiday shopping season.

L Brands reported that revenue at stores opened at least a year rose just 1 percent in September, below the 2 percent gain that analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected. Costco Wholesale reported that revenue at stores opened at least a year rose 3 percent, below the 3.7 percent gain that was anticipated by Wall Street.

September was a difficult month. Warmer-than-usual weather hurt sales of sweaters and other fall clothes. But economic concerns also dampened sales.

Shoppers worry that the partial government shutdown, which has forced several hundred thousand federal workers off their jobs, will be prolonged. That, and the possibility that politicians won't resolve their deadlock over the federal debt limit before the U.S. Treasury's borrowing authority is exhausted next week, adds to the concerns. A financial default could plunge the economy into recession, cause interest rates to increase and home values to drop.

Those worries compound challenges retailers have had in trying to get shoppers spending again. The job and housing markets are improving, but that hasn't yet translated into sustained spending increases among most shoppers.

Retailers post modest gains for September 10/10/13 [Last modified: Thursday, October 10, 2013 8:31pm]
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