Robust Apparel Sales Lift May Retail Trade Results

Article excerpt

CHICAGO -- U.S. retailers reported strong sales gains in May, boosted by continued robust demand for spring and summer clothes.

The nation's two biggest retailers -- Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Sears, Roebuck & Co. -- said their same-store sales rose 5 percent and 10 percent, respectively, partly on demand for certain types of apparel.

Clothing-oriented specialty chains also reported gains in May, including Gap Inc., Limited Inc. and Intimate Brands Inc.

It was the fourth straight month of robust apparel sales, following two years of skimpy demand.

Consumers are buying more clothes because retailers are offering more colorful, appealing fashions. And they need to revive their aging wardrobes, analysts said.

"I do most of my shopping for replacements," said Lorraine Prugh of Doylestown, Penn., while shopping at an AnnTaylor store in Princeton, N.J.

And the revival in apparel sales may continue.

"Apparel sales are probably going to hold up through fall and winter because of the `replacement mode,' " said Kurt Barnard, president of Barnard's Retail Marketing Report.

Another good sign in for retailers: Sales of hard goods were also strong -- especially seasonal merchandise like air conditioners, fans and lawn-and-garden tools -- thanks to warmer weather.

"That's encouraging because it means the strength is not just locked into apparel," said Peter Schaeffer, an analyst at Dillon Read. …


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