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Back-to-school gives retailers a good August

A shopper at Central Market in Shoreline, north of Seattle, Washington. Retailers posted better-than-expected sales in August, helped by back-to-school shopping.
A shopper at Central Market in Shoreline, north of Seattle, Washington. Retailers posted better-than-expected sales in August, helped by back-to-school shopping.Anthony Bolante / Reuters

Most retailers, including Costco Wholesale Corp and Limited Brands Inc , posted better-than-expected sales gains at existing stores in August, in what is expected to be a healthy month as parents and students wrapped up back-to-school purchases.

Analysts expected 19 retail chains to report a 2 percent rise in August sales at stores open at least a year, or same-store sales, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. Excluding drugstores, which do not put out their numbers until next week, same-store sales are expected to rise 4.1 percent.

Same-store sales are an important measure of retailer performance because they strip out the effects from store openings and closures.

Limited, which owns the Victoria's Secret, Pink and Bath & Body Works chains, saw same-store sales rise 8 percent, well above analysts' average view of 4.2 percent.

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Stage Stores Inc's same-store sales rose 6.5 percent. Led by back-to-school merchandise, women's clothing and strong selling of items at full price, the department store operator posted its highest August same-store sales increase since 2004, Chief Executive Michael Glazer said in a statement.

Costco posted a 6 percent gain in comparable sales as higher fuel prices offset a stronger dollar.

Teen retailer The Buckle Inc also did well, with a comparable sales rise of 4.5 percent. However, rival The Wet Seal Inc said comparable sales were down 18.3 percent, a steeper decline than analysts anticipated.

"August same store sales estimates have crept upward throughout the month coupled with generally positive reports from retailers on initial back-to-school sales," Ken Perkins, analyst at Retail Metrics, said before results began to trickle in.

Retail Metrics expected sales to rise 1.8 percent. Leaving aside drugstores, it said sales were expected to rise 4.2 percent.

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