July Retail Sales Headed for Tiny Gain

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The consensus estimate for July same-store sales growth among stores that still report monthly figures calls for a meager 0.2% year-over-year increase. July is typically a transition month, with retailers clearing out summer inventory and stocking up with back-to-school items.

Among retailers who still report monthly sales, Retail Metrics has compiled the latest U.S. same-store sales estimates compared with July 2014 sales:

  • Costco Wholesale Corp. (NASDAQ: COST), up 5.7% excluding gasoline sales and down 0.2% including gas sales
  • Stein Mart Inc. (NASDAQ: SMRT), up 3.5%
  • PriceSmart Inc. (NASDAQ: PSMT), up 3.3%
  • Zumiez Inc. (NASDAQ: ZUMZ), down 3.5%
  • Gap Inc. (NYSE: GPS), down 2.7% company-wide and down 7.2% at domestic Gap stores, 5.7% at Banana Republic stores and up 4.1% at Old Navy stores

Rite Aid Corp. (NYSE: RAD) has already reported that July same-store sales rose 2.4% overall and 3.4% in pharmacy sales and 0.1% in front-end sales.

The outlook for the back-to-school shopping season — which trails only the end-of-the-year holiday season in importance to retailers — is not hopeful. Shopping for school supplies this year for K through 12 children is not a priority for nearly 40% of U.S. families, according to report from Deloitte.

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Several states are offering sales tax holidays, with the coming weekend seeing most of the action. Florida is offering sales-tax-free shopping for 10 days, from August 7 through August 16, the most of any state. Alabama, Iowa, Louisiana, Missouri, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia are foregoing sales tax collections beginning Friday and running through Saturday or Sunday, depending on the state. Connecticut, Maryland and Massachusetts have tax holidays scheduled later this month.

Whether the tax holidays will boost back-to-school sales remains to be seen, but there is not much doubt that shopping for school clothes and supplies is not the big deal it used to be.

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