Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Big Retailers Report Mixed Sales

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Big Retailers Report Mixed Sales

Article excerpt

Reports from the nation's major retailers Thursday showed uneven June results, with sales at some big chains held back by weak consumer spending while department stores benefited from a continuing turnaround in women's apparel.

Jeffrey Edelman, a retail analyst at Drexel Burnham Lambert Inc., said industrywide sales were mixed with poorer tallies coming from non-clothing categories.

Among the leading general merchandisers, K mart Corp., the country's second largest retailer after Sears, Roebuck and Co., said its June sales represented an improvement after a string of disappointing months.

Fast-growing discounter Wal-Mart Stores Inc., currently ranked third, turned in another robust performance.

Higher inflation and costlier instalment debt payments, due to past interest rate increases, have pinched consumers. A spending slowdown has shown up mainly in purchases of big-ticket items, like cars and home appliances, while outlays for less expensive merchandise haven't been affected as much.

But Edelman said the moderation in consumer spending, the chief fuel for overall economic activity, has more to do with the aging of the business cycle.

``The consumer is still healthy, still confident, but I think a lot of demand has been satisfied,'' said Edelman. ``I think the consumer is just tired and needs to rest a little bit.''

Industry analysts said general merchandise retailers' results in June may have appeared a bit weaker than they actually were because they were being compared with one of 1988's better months. By contrast, results of apparel sellers may have looked better because last year was an exceptionally dismal one for fashion merchandising.

Analysts typically look to the results of Limited Inc. for signs of how the women's apparel business is doing.

Limited posted an 11 percent rise in sales to $387 million in the five weeks ended July 1 from $347. …

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