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Retailers report soft May sales figures

June 3, 2010 |  8:55 am

The nation’s consumer spending recovery hit a snag in May as retailers reported soft results that hinted at what could be a tough summer for spending.

On Thursday, major chain stores posted a 2.5% year-over-year increase in May sales, according to Thomson Reuters tally of 28 companies including Gap Inc., Macy’s Inc. and Target Corp.Discounters fared the best, with budget-friendly chains reporting a 5.3% gain; still, that missed expectations for a 5.5% rise.

Teen chains made up the weakest sector, with every retailer except for Aeropostale Inc. and Zumiez Inc. posting sales declines.

Beleaguered upscale chain Abercrombie & Fitch Co., which in recent months had been showing signs of life, and competitor American Eagle Outfitters Inc. both said that sales fell 3%. Local chains Hot Topic Inc. of City of Industry and Wet Seal Inc. of Foothill Ranch reported sales declines of 9% and 5.3%, respectively.

Results are based on sales at stores open at least a year, known as same-store sales, and considered an important measure of a retailer’s health because it excludes the effect of store openings and closings. Discount giant Wal-Mart Stores Inc. no longer reports sales on a monthly basis.

Analysts had been expecting slightly higher results and blamed cooler weather during the first half of the month; a later Memorial Day, which will probably push some sales into June; and stubbornly high unemployment rates.

Now industry experts are looking ahead to the summer season.

“June needs to rebound to show fledgling consumer spending recovery is on track,” said Ken Perkins, president of the research firm Retail Metrics Inc.

-- Andrea Chang