August Retail Sales Hampered by Lower Back-to-School Shopping

Retailers were announcing August U.S. same-store sales figures Thursday morning. Research firm Retail Metrics projected that overall sales would be down 0.6% year over year for the month. In July of 2014 retail same-store sales rose 5%.

The number of retailers reporting same-store sales has declined significantly over the past several years, but the reported numbers do provide a kind of interim report on quarterly performance at the country’s retail stores.

Here is what Retail Metrics has to say about the small projected increase in sales growth:

While consumers were out in force purchasing new vehicles at a 17.7 million [seasonally adjusted annual rate] at levels not seen since prior to the Great Recession, traffic at the nation’s retailers during the key Back-to-School shopping season was not quite as robust. … Value conscious American consumers came out in decent numbers to shop for [back-to-school] B2S during August with many taking advantage of state tax-free shopping holidays that shifted over into August from July last year. B2S shopping surveys including the National Retail Federation survey found that consumers were going to spend less this year on B2S and this may have very well come to fruition as mall traffic looked sluggish throughout the month but did pick up in the latter half of August.

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Here are results from the stores we track:

Buckle Inc. (NYSE: BKE) reported same-store sales for August fell 3.3% compared with the same month a year ago. The Retail Metrics estimate called for sales to drop 1.7%. Net sales for all stores fell 2.1% and totaled $101.4 million for the month.

Buckle shares were inactive in Thursday’s premarket. They closed Wednesday up about 1% at $41.74 in a 52-week trading range of $39.72 to $56.13.

Costco Wholesale Corp. (NASDAQ: COST) reported August same-store sales, including gasoline sales and foreign exchange effects, were up 1% in the United States and down 11% internationally. Overall, same-store sales were down 2% in the month. Excluding gasoline and currency exchanges U.S. sales rose 5% and international sales rose 7%. On the same basis, worldwide same-stores sales in the quarter rose 5%. Net sales for the month totaled $8.7 billion, down 1% year over year. Retail Metrics had projected a same-store sales decline of 1.4% (up 5.1% excluding gasoline sales and foreign exchange effects).

Costco shares were inactive in Thursday’s premarket session, after closing on Wednesday at $140.42. The stock’s 52-week range is $117.03 to $156.85.

L Brands Inc. (NYSE: LB) said same-store sales for August rose 6% compared with last year’s sales. Retail Metrics had estimated an increase of 2.3%. L Brands operates Victoria’s Secret, Pink, Bath & Body Works, La Senza and Henri Bendel stores. Net sales also rose 8% to $826 million in August.

L Brands’ shares were also inactive Thursday morning, after closing up 2.24% at $85.73 on Wednesday. The stock’s 52-week range is $63.54 to $95.78.

Stein Mart Inc. (NASDAQ: SMRT) reported a 1.4% decrease in same-store sales for August, well below the 2.4% growth estimate from Retail Metrics. Total sales for the month came in at $86.1 million, down 0.4% from a year ago. The company noted August sales were affected by the move of Labor Day to a week later in September this year and the resulting shift of events.

Stein Mart’s shares were inactive in Thursday’s premarket, after closing Wednesday at $10.84, up about 1.4% for the day. The stock’s 52-week trading range is $9.63 to $16.65.

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