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NEW YORK CITY-Faced with comparisons against a stimulus-check boosted May 2008 and the absence of reporting by Wal-Mart, International Council of Shopping Centers’ retail Chain Store Sales Index reported that May 2009 comp-store sales declined 4.6% from the prior-year month. Sales excluding Wal-Mart rose 1.4% in May 2008.

Last May saw the US Treasury department distribute $50 billion to consumers, followed by $28 billion in June, bolstering sales.

“ICSC surveys found that about one-third of the federal tax rebates were spent, which pumped into consumer spending about $10 billion to $15 billion in May, and about that same amount in June–allowing for some lagged response between receiving the rebates and spending,” wrote Michael P. Niemira, ICSC chief economist and director of research.

Another factor in national reports is the absence of results from Wal-Mart, which no longer reports sales on a monthly basis.

“It appears Wal-Mart has chosen to go out on top, having outpaced much of retail for the better part of the past year,” wrote Brendan Langan, director of retail Insight for Cambridge, MA-based retail consultancy MVI in his analysis of May sales. “Although the retailer has made clear progress against its initiatives, it will face headwinds as it cycles last year’s stimulus checks and weaker prior-year comparisons throughout the rest of 2009. Furthermore, Wal-Mart is sending a wake-up call to the ‘Street’ to take a longer-term view of results.”

All ICSC index categories but drug stores–which rose 0.9%–reported sales declines. Walgreens sales rose 1%, while Rite Aid reported a 0.6% increase. Department store comps dropped 9.4%, with the luxury sector declining 18.1%. Apparel stores declined 5%, with Abercrombie & Fitch reporting a 28.0% comp drop, while Cato sales saw just a 3% decrease. The teen sector continues to struggle, declining 10.8%. Wholesale clubs reported a 7% decrease, largely due to fuel price declines–with fuel excluded, sales declined just 0.4%.

Discounters–down 3.5%–were a mixed bag, with Target posting a 6.1% decline, while TJX reported a 5% increase. With last year’s stimulus also a factor in June 2008 sales, ICSC anticipates that June 2009 sales will be down by between 3% and 4% from the prior year.

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