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Retailers Report Disappointing Sales in July

New York City The outlook for the back-to-school shopping season turned even more cautious Thursday, as retailers generally posted lower-than expected same-store sales for July.

The sales results, along with guarded outlooks for August, left little hope for any lasting boost from rebate checks as consumers headed into the second half of the year.

Discounters continued to lead the way. Wal-Mart reported a 3% gain in same-store sales for July, missing the 3.4% gain expected by analysts polled by Thomson Financial. The results excluded gasoline sales. Including gasoline results, same-store sales would have been up 3.7%.

"With the end of the stimulus checks, we know consumers are spending more cautiously, and we continue to see a pronounced paycheck cycle at the end of the month," said Eduardo Castro-Wright, head of Wal-Mart's U.S. operations.

Wal-Mart said that same-store sales increased in grocery, entertainment, and health and wellness, but that its home and apparel business posted small declines. Wal-Mart noted that it saw sales momentum building in back-to-school offerings across the store and expects the momentum to carry through the August period.

Costco reported a 10% increase in same-store sales, beating the 7.8% estimate from analysts. Excluding gas prices, same-store sales would have been up 6%. BJ's Wholesale Club Inc. saw its same-store sales jump 16.7%, with gasoline sales contributing 9.7% of the increase.

TJX Cos. Inc. posted a 3% rise in July same-store sales. The results were slightly below Wall Street estimates, but the retailer raised its profit forecast for the second quarter. Ross Stores Inc. posted a higher-than-expected 4% rise. Family Dollar’s same-store sales rose 4.6%.

Target Corp. said that same-store sales slipped 1.2%, worse than the 0.3% decline that Wall Street expected. Target has a higher percentage of nonessentials like clothing and home furnishings compared to Wal-Mart.

Apparel specialty stores remained in a slump.

Chico's FAS Inc. said Thursday same-store sales plunged 18.5% in July, as the chain widely missed Wall Street expectations.

Limited Brands reported a 5% decline in same-store sales, though results were better than the 7.4% drop Wall Street expected.

Gap suffered an 11% same-store sales drop in July, a larger decline than the 7% decline analysts had expected.

Pacific Sunwear of California posted a 4% drop in same-store sales, worse than the 0.4% estimate from Wall Street.

At American Eagle Outfitters, same-store sales dropped 7%.

Hot Topic posted a 2.1% decline in July same-store sales, hurt by weaker sales of men's and women's apparel.

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