WASHINGTON DC-Retail sales increased 1.5% in September compared to August, says the US Census Bureau of the Department of Commerce. Retail and food service companies sold $341.3 billion of goods, the department says.

Year-on-year, retailers also improved. From September 2003, companies posted a sales increase of 7.5%, the Department reported. The government says the highest performers were gas stations, reporting an increase of 15.1% from the year before, and home improvement retailers, whose sales shot up 14.4% from 2003. Total sales from July through August were 6.5% compared to a year ago.

The Department’s report comes about a week after the International Council of Shopping Centers’ survey on monthly same-store sales. In September, comparable sales rose 2.4%, ICSC says. During that period, wholesale clubs were the retail sector’s leaders with a 6.6% year-on-year jump.

Meanwhile, Morgan Stanley released a favorable report on Kohl’s department stores. The firm says Kohl’s “is on its way back to achieving industry-leading comp performance.”

The Menomonee Falls, WI-based retailer has introduced several new favorable product lines, the report says, adding “if Kohl’s is able to convert the department store cosmetics consumer to its new lines, it could see increased loyalty in the future.” In September, the company’s same-store sales were down 1.3% year-over-year.

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