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NEW YORK CITY-Chain stores posted a 2.2% year-over-year gain last month, according to an International Council of Shopping Centers report, which called the results “better-than-expected.” Though sales were below the fiscal year 2004 average of 3.8%, the drop was attributed to Easter falling in March instead of April, when the holiday was observed last year.

Department stores, posting a 3.3% increase, had their best showing since March 2004, when they were up 6%. The sector was driven by luxury chains, such as Neiman Marcus, which rose 14.2%. Meanwhile, Kohl’s shot up 8%. Dillard’s took the biggest hit, falling by 6% and reporting its second-straight month of same-store sales drops.

Wholesale clubs were the most successful sector, climbing by 6.8% as a group. BJ’s Wholesale rose 8.4% and was followed by Costco, at 8%. Wal-Mart’s Sam’s Club chain increased 4.9%.

Apparel as a whole, falling 0.6%, had its first same-store sales decrease since November. Both Gap and Limited slid 5%, while Cato tumbled by 10%. Some apparel chains continued to have strong results, though. Continuing its double-digit growth, American Eagle Outfitters jumped 20%.

Discount chains as a sector struggled compared to typically high earnings. Those results were driven by Wal-Mart’s 0.1% crawl. Target, gaining 1.3%, was also well below its usual high single-digit performance. The sector was lead by Dollar General, which rose by 5.2%.

The sales of 70 retailers were tallied in ICSC’s report. It predicts same-store sales this month will increase between 3% and 3.5% from the same year-ago period.

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