NEW YORK CITY-Retailers’ same-store sales rose 2.5% year over year in May, a significant improvement from April’s 1.9% slide. But chain stores are facing lower sales trends this year than they were in 2006 due to weakness in the residential housing market, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers’ monthly sales survey.

Wholesale clubs, posting a 6.5% gain, fared the best in this environment. Costco was the category leader with a 7% rise, while Wal-Mart’s Sam’s Clubs were up 6.4%.

The weakest sector covered in the survey was apparel, in which chains slid 0.6%. Abercrombie & Fitch took the biggest dive, dropping 6%, while Ann Taylor followed with a 4.6% slip. United Retail Group, the owner of Avenue chain, fared the best with a 4% increase.

Department stores, up 2.2%, reported mixed results. Kohl’s soared to a 10.5% hike and Nordstrom shot up 6.5%. But Macy’s, formerly Federated Department Stores, the nation’s largest chain, fell 3.3%, and Dillard’s and JC Penney each dropped 2%.

Discounters performed well as a group, but Wal-Mart’s 0.3% gain, dragged the rest of the chains down to an overall 1.7% increase. Target led with a 5.8% jump, followed by a 5% lift by TJX Cos.

ICSC’s research predicts that sales will continue to increase slowly in June but not drop to April’s level, with retailers posting gains in the 2%-to-2.5% range.

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