NEW YORK CITY-Retailers’ same store sales last month gained 3% from the same year-ago period, according to an International Council of Shopping Centers monthly report. The results were highlighted by a shift in customer spending, leading to an environment where department stores are a leading category.

Department stores as a group rose 6.2%. Nordstrom was the best performer, soaring 10.7%, followed by J.C. Penney’s 8.1% increase. Meanwhile, Dillard’s struggles continued as the retailer dropped 5%.

Specialty apparel, by contrast, slid 0.2%, mainly due to a 7% plunge at Gap Inc.’s chains. Chico’s FAS, which was posting double-digit gains at the beginning of the year, fell 4.1%. Limited Brands, up 9%, and American Eagle Outfitters, increasing 8%, were both exceptions in the sector.

Wholesale clubs’ 2.9% gain was better than other sectors, but down from their 4.7% year-to-date average gain. Costco’s 4% increase was the group’s leader, while BJ’s Wholesale’s units posted a 0.7% fall.

Discount stores were mixed overall and rose 1.3%. Leaders in the category were TJX Cos., up 5%, and Target, which gained 3.9%. But Wal-Mart only inched up 0.3%, and Family Dollar was up by 1%.

ICSC’s research team predicts a 3.5% same-store sales increase over the holiday season, in November and December, based on some statistical calculations. For this month alone, it predicts a 3% increase.

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