NEW YORK CITY-Retailers posted a 3.6% year-over-year same-store sales gain in July, according to an International Council of Shopping Centers report. The results were slightly down from the year’s average monthly gain of 3.8%.

The slowdown was due to a strong June, when sales were up 5.5%, which dropped inventories. Heavy motor-vehicle demand, as well as a downturn in back-to-school purchases due to July’s hot weather, also hindered the results.

Department stores fared the worst out of the retail categories monitored by ICSC, inching up by 0.6% as a whole. The luxury segment of the sector, up 4.7%, was well below its year-to-date average of 8.2%. May Department Stores posted the biggest loss, falling 3.3%. On the high end, Neiman Marcus’ year-on-year gain was 8.8%.

Wholesale clubs were the strongest sector last month, reporting a 5% jump. Wal-Mart’s Sam’s Clubs had the best results, climbing 5.1%, while Costco followed closely behind, at 5%.

Apparel chains, with a 2.4% increase, were nearly 1% above their monthly average for the year. Abercrombie & Fitch, rising 22%, and American Eagle Outfitters, shooting up by 17.1%, were once again the sector’s leaders. Gap Inc. and Cato both dropped 4%.

Discount chains, gaining 4%, were led by Target’s 5.5% rise, which was followed by Wal-Mart, up 4.2%. Drugstores, at 4.6% as a whole, were paced by gains in the two largest chains, CVS (up 5.1%) and Walgreens (up 5.9%).

ICSC’s research team is predicting a 4% gain for August, when retailers will benefit from a favorable comparison to last year’s slight 1.3% increase.

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