Sluggish Retail Sales Extend Into August

NEW YORK (AP) -- The first week of August was sluggish at America's retailers, even with sales tax holidays kicking in for about 20 states, according to data released Tuesday.

The weak start to the month raised more concerns about the health of the back-to-school shopping season.

Revenue at stores opened at least a year slipped 0.2 percent for the week ended Saturday compared with the previous week, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers-Goldman Sachs index. Compared with the same period last the, the measure increased 3.7 percent, a smaller gain than 3.9 percent the previous week.

The measure is a key indicator of a retailer's health because it excludes growth at stores that open or close during the year.

Michael P. Niemira, chief economist at ICSC, said he's still forecasting a 3 percent gain for August.

More reports on early back-to-school results are expected to come from second-quarter earnings reports from such stores as Macy's Inc., J.C. Penney Co. and Kohl's Corp., which are all reporting this week.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Target Corp. are reporting earnings next week. With recession-scarred shoppers buying closer to when they need the items, analysts expect that back-to-school purchases will be concentrated toward the end of the month and through September.

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