Last year's August increase was only 1.3%, the poorestperformance that chains turned in all year, so this year'syear-over-year comparison could have been strong. But record highgas prices and the 11th-warmest August in over 110 years held backtheir performance.

Wholesale clubs notched the industry's strongest performance bysector, with a 7.8% increase. Costco led the way, rising 9%,followed by Wal-Mart's Sam's Clubs, which were up 6.6%.

The weakest sector overall was apparel, inching up by 1.2%.Those chain's numbers as a whole were brought down by a 9% drop atGap Inc. Strong performers in the sector were Abercrombie &Fitch, up 24%, and Chico's FAS, which shot up 14%.

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