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Originally published July 10, 2009 at 12:00 AM | Page modified July 10, 2009 at 9:23 AM

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Apparel sales hit especially hard in June, retailers say

Nearly every sector, including department stores, discounters and apparel chains, saw sales fall in June, with clothing stores hit especially hard.

Los Angeles Times

Lingering job and financial worries meant summer-shopping sprees were put on hold for many consumers last month, leading to worse-than-expected sales declines at many of the largest U.S. retailers and raising fears the back-to-school shopping season could be in trouble.

Nearly every sector, including department stores, discounters and apparel chains, saw sales fall in June, with clothing stores hit especially hard.

But retail analysts said that given unseasonal weather in much of the U.S. in June, plus rising unemployment, sales could have been much worse. They noted a handful of bright spots, including positive year-over-year increases from off-price retailers Ross Stores and TJX Cos., which operates T.J. Maxx and Marshalls.

"If you're looking for a change in the tide of consumer spending, it will be slow, it'll be narrow and then it'll build from that," said Michael Niemira, chief economist at the International Council of Shopping Centers. "And we may be seeing that turn."

Among the weakest results were preppy teen retailer Abercrombie & Fitch, which reported a massive 32 percent year-over-year sales decrease; American Apparel, at which sales fell 13 percent; and Limited Brands, down 12 percent.

Nordstrom said its same-store sales fell 10 percent in June and Macy's reported a 8.9 percent drop.

The results, reported Thursday, are based on sales at stores open at least a year, known as same-store sales, and considered a barometer of a retailer's health.

Even lower-priced mass merchants Costco Wholesale and Target reported sales declines of 6 percent and 6.2 percent, respectively.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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