Retailers make strong gains in August

NEW YORK — Macy's, Limited Brands and Gap Inc. all posted August same-store sales that topped analysts' estimates as retailers across the board generally posted strong sales, boosted by back-to-school shopping and aggressive promotions. The strong showing comes shortly after the news that consumer confidence for August slumped to its lowest level of the year.

A group of 18 retailers ranging from Target to Macy's to Costco Wholesale Corp. reported August sales on Thursday that rose 6% — the industry's best performance since March — according to the International Council of Shopping Centers.

Same-store sales increased 9% at Gap Inc., beating projections for a 5.5% increase. At namesake Gap stores, same-store sales were up 9%. The metric rose 12% at Old Navy, and 8% at Banana Republic.

At Limited Brands, same-store sales rose 8%, almost twice the 4.2% that was projected. The biggest increase was at Limited's Victoria's Secret, where same-store sales increased 9%.

Macy’s reported a 5.1% increase in same-store sales, better than the 3.3% increase analysts had expected.

"Sales exceeded our expectations in August, and the strength was broad-based across merchandise categories, geographies and channels," said Macy's chairman, president and CEO Terry Lundgren. "Our fall season is off to a healthy start."

At Nordstrom Inc., same-store sales jumped 21%, topping analysts' estimates for an 11% increase. The chain’s performance was boosted by its annual anniversary sale event, which it moved into August this year.

The Buckle Inc. posted a 4.5% rise in same-store sales, better than the projected 0.3% drop.

The Wet Seal Inc. continued to struggle. The chain reported an 18.3% decline in same-store sales, when a 17% drop was expected. Wet Seal said in a statement the results were in line with its expectations and that since the start of August, the company has returned to "fast fashion merchandising and has included merchandising to a broader demographic."

Stage Stores Inc. reported a 6.5% increase in comparable-store sales rise of 6.5%, more than twice expectations for 3%.

"Healthy back-to-school selling, strength in our missy and other women’s categories and strong full-price selling helped produce our highest comparable-store sales increase for the month of August since 2004," said Stage Stores CEO Michael Glazer.

The Bon-Ton Stores reported a 2.2% increase in same-store sales.