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NEW YORK CITY-Retailers’ same-store sales in February were better than expected, rising 1.9% overall year over year, but very mixed by sectors, according to a monthly International Council of Shopping Centers survey. Apparel chains and department stores were hit hard by weak sales, but discounters and wholesale clubs performed well in the current challenging economic environment.

Apparel dropped by 4.1%, with Chico’s FAS plunging 14.9% and Limited Brands falling 9%. Chains that fared better than most included Ross Stores, up 4%, and Cato Corp, which rose 3%.

All of the department stores in the survey fell, and the group slid 3.3% as whole. Luxury chain Nordstrom took the hardest hit, slipping 5.8%, while the lower-priced Kohl’s fell as well, by 3.8%. Macy’s Inc., meanwhile, has stopped reporting monthly sales.

Wholesale clubs seemed to thrive in the current economic downturn. Costco shot up 7%, BJ’s Wholesale advance 5.9%, and Wal-Mart’s Sam’s Club was up 5.2%. Discounters also had relatively strong results, rising 2.1%, in part because of Wal-Mart’s better-than-expected 2.5% turnout.

Due to Easter falling in March ICSC’s research department predicts a 2% overall increase for the current month.

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