10/25/2014

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Business

Retailers report modest Sept. sales gains

Retailers report modest Sept. sales gains
Raegan Jackson, 10, picks out a backpack shopping at Target in Lynchburg, Va.
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NEW YORK (AP) — Several retailers reported modest sales gains for September as shoppers who were worried about a partial government shutdown and the overall economy pulled back their spending from the prior month.

The results increase concerns about how shoppers will spend for the crucial holiday season, the largest shopping selling period for retailers.

Revenue at stores opened at least a year — a measure of a retailer's health— rose 2.7 percent in September, according to a preliminary tally of 9 retailers by the International Council of Shopping Centers. That was a slower pace than the 3.5 percent increase posted in August.

L Brands, the parent of Victoria's Secret, and Costco Wholesale Corp. were among the chains that reported results that missed Wall Street estimates, while Stein Mart Inc. posted results that beat analysts' expectations.

Only a sliver of retail chains report monthly sales figures, and the list doesn't include Wal-Mart Stores, Macy's Inc. and many other large chains. But it offers some clues into consumer spending heading into the holiday shopping season.

L Brands, the parent of Victoria's Secret, reported that revenue at stores opened at least a year rose just 1 percent in September, below the 2 percent gain that analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected. Costco Wholesale Corp. reported Wednesday that revenue at stores opened at least a year rose 3 percent, below the 3.7 percent gain that was anticipated by Wall Street.

September was a difficult month. Warmer-than-usual weather hurt sales of sweaters and other fall clothes. But economic concerns also dampened sales.

Shoppers worry that the partial government shutdown, which is on its tenth day and has forced about 800,000 federal workers off the job, will be prolonged. That, and the possibility that politicians won't resolve their deadlock over the federal debt limit before the U.S. Treasury's borrowing authority is exhausted next week, adds to the concerns. A financial default could plunge the economy into recession, cause interest rates to increase and home values to drop.

Those worries compound challenges retailers have had in trying to get shoppers spending again. The job and housing markets are improving, but that hasn't yet translated into sustained spending increases among most shoppers.
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U.S. new home sales close to flat in September U.S. new home sales close to flat in September