ICSC: July chain store sales rose 2.6 percent

The International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) has reported a 2.6 percent gain in chain store sales in July, compared with the prior-year period.

The ICSC noted sales in July were “softer” than the 4.2 percent gain seen in June. The July performance still was in line with a year-to-date average of 2.5 percent year-over-year growth, said Michael Niemira, chief economist and director of research for the ICSC.

"Value and convenience retailers performed better in July than the industry as a whole as sales at discount stores, wholesale clubs and drug stores led the industry," he said. “Although July captured some early back-to-school shopping, the month was dominated by clearance sales and discounts.”

The group predicted that in August, as demand for back-to-school and fall merchandise kicks in, industry sales will post a 2 percent increase.

Some of the country’s largest retailers reported mixed results in the period. At Wal-Mart, which accounts for the third highest sales volume of home channel merchandise in the country, same-store sales rose 3 percent. That figure was off slightly from Wall Street estimates of 3.4 percent.

Same-store sales at Target fell 1.2 percent in the period, deeper than a forecasted 0.3 percent drop.

Issaquah, Wash.-based Costco Wholesale said July same-store sales increased 10 percent. That figure is higher than Wall Street estimates of a 7.9 percent gain.

In related news, the ICSC released results from a survey indicating consumers plan to start back-to-school shopping earlier this year. About 78.5 percent of respondents surveyed said they expect to complete their back-to-school shopping before the end of August, up from 72.7 percent in 2007 and 69.5 percent in 2006.

Roughly one-third, or 34 percent, of the households surveyed reported having already started their back-to-school shopping, while 7 percent said they were already finished.

The ICSC, through Opinion Research Corp., surveyed 1,012 U.S. households from July 17 through July 20 for the survey.