Retail's August Surge: Top 10 Performers

It can be risky to read too much into a single month's results, but August's same-store sales figures indicate retail is enjoying a strong back-to-school season. Among the 20-odd retailers that regularly provide monthly sales figures, only two reported sales declines last month: Wet Seal, with an 18.3% drop compared to August 2011, and Fred's, with a 2.8% decline. For most of 2012, five or more retailers have ended up in the "minus" column when monthly figures are tallied.

On the plus side, Nordstrom led the pack with a 21% same-store sales increase, although some of this strong performance can be attributed to a change in the dates of its Anniversary Sale event, which normally falls completely in July. This year, the second half of the two-week event was included in August's numbers.

Apparel retailers turned in solid performances in August. In the number-two spot, Gap's same-store sales climbed 9%, followed by a three-way tie in third place: TJX, Limited Brands and Ross Stores each reported 8% increases.

"Almost all retailers reported comps above consensus with many citing strong back-to-school selling," said J. Philip Leichliter, president and CEO of J. Philip Group LLC. Retail's performance is particularly impressive given the general economic uncertainty around the presidential election campaign and a sharp spike in gas prices, which rose nearly 40 cents per gallon in the past month.

"Consumers seem to be telling pollsters that they have no confidence, yet they 'vote with their pocketbook' and give retailers a great back-to-school season," said Leichliter. While he admits that "many retailers had to 'buy' their successful results with deep discounts, but the customers came and spent nonetheless."

Top 10 Retailers
Following are the top-performing retailers for the past month (based on same-store sales for August 2012 compared to August 2011). A total of 13 retailers are listed due to a three-way tie in third place and a two-way tie in eighth place.

1) Nordstrom                         +21.0%
2) Gap                                     +9.0%
3) TJX Co.                              +8.0%
3) Limited Brands                   +8.0%
3) Ross Stores                         +8.0%
4) Stage Stores                        +6.5%
5) Costco (excluding gas)       +6.0%
6) Stein Mart                           +5.6%
7) Macy's                                 +5.1%
8) Target                                  +4.5%
8) The Buckle                          +4.5%
9) Zumiez                                +3.7%
10) Kohl's                                +3.4%

For related content: Top 5 and Bottom 5 of Q2 2012

Top and Bottom 5 Retailers of July

Top and Bottom 5 Retailers of June

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