Retail Forward reports encouraging signs in July

New York City Although declines in retail same-store sales persisted in July, there were encouraging signs as shoppers ease their tight rein on spending plans, according to Retail Forward.

Sales-weighted same-store sales held roughly steady at 4.6% in July for the 32 retailers -- most of them apparel retailers -- reporting monthly results on Thursday, Retail Forward said. That was about the same as the 4.7% decline last month, but down from the 1.8% gain in July 2008 for the same composite measure calculated without Wal-Mart. Including Wal-Mart, same-store sales were up 2.8% in July 2008. (Wal-Mart announced in May it would no longer report monthly sales.)

“Shoppers are not yet ready to spend freely. But the results reported by retailers provide some signs that shoppers are easing up on their cutbacks. And that’s especially encouraging given the variety of factors weighing on retail sales in July,” said Frank Badillo, senior economist at Retail Forward, Columbus, Ohio.

Retailers cited a variety of factors weighing on July’s results. Among others, these included: a year-ago comparison period boosted by economic stimulus payments; a shift by some states of a tax-holiday period into August; lean inventories requiring less clearance; fewer promotions; a later start to back-to-school shopping and unfavorable weather.

Apparel and accessory stores as a group performed better than other retailers reporting and their composite decline eased compared with June, according to Retail Forward. Department stores remained the laggard as their composite decline persisted similar to June, although a few retailers, including Kohl’s, were exceptions.

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