September Same-Store Sales Show Surprising Strength

In spite of serious market-wide worries about another economic downturn, U.S. retailers posted very strong gains in September.

Thomson Reuters estimates that retail sales rose 5.1 percent during the month, more than its roughly 4.5 percent figure for August. The strong results raised hopes for the upcoming holiday shopping season.

I'm not saying it's going to be going to an exceptional or a blow-away holiday, but I wonder if people are being overly pessimistic," Madison Riley, managing director for retail consulting firm Kurt Salmon, said after reviewing retailers' September reports.

According to ICSC estimates, September same-store sales numbers were the strongest since June, at 5.5 percent. ICSC reported that warehouse clubs as a group posted growth of 12 percent, followed by luxury stores at 10.4 percent. Sales at apparel stores grew the least, at 2.3 percent.

ICSC tracked 26 retail chains in its research.

Kantar Retail, which tracks 25 retail chains, most of them apparel retailers, reported September same-store sales growth of 5.7 percent.

“The resiliency of shoppers in September, especially at apparel and department stores, partly reflects unavoidable back-to-school purchases amid higher apparel prices. At the same time, sales are holding up as shoppers' spending intentions fall off much less dramatically than the steep falloff in consumer confidence.” said Doug Hermanson, Kantar Retail Economist.

The blog Retail Sails credited back-to-school promotions and discounts on fall apparel items for a 5.7 percent rise in same-store sales. Retail Sails tracks 24 retailers.

Of course none of the above figures include same-store sales reports from Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which accounts for roughly 6 percent of all U.S. retail sales. Wal-Mart stopped reporting monthly same-store sales results last year.

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