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Report: May Sales Boosted by Tax Rebate Checks


New York City Consumers hit the stores this May after receiving tax rebate checks to give many U.S. retailers stronger than expected sales for the month, according to the Associated Press. However, there were still signs that many people are focusing on necessities such as food and gas.

Wal-Mart CFO Tom Schoewe said Thursday that $350 million worth of tax rebate checks had been cashed in the stores so far, although he didn't know what percentage of that money was actually spent at Wal-Mart, the report said. He said the checks, along with an improvement in Wal-Mart's merchandise, helped May sales results surpass expectations.

Wal-Mart said same-store sales rose 3.9%, while analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial predicted a 1.6% rise. Including fuel sales, same-store sales rose 4.4%.

Target Corp. said same-store sales fell 0.7%, while analysts expected a 0.2% drop. Health care, electronics and perishables were the company's strongest sales categories in May, while men's apparel, jewelry, and lawn and patio sales were weakest.

Costco said same-store sales rose 9%, ahead of the 6.9% analysts were expecting. Results were boosted by food and gas sales, along with the benefit of the weaker dollar, mainly in Canada. TJX Cos. said same-store sales rose 2%, edging higher than the 1.8% analysts expected.

Department stores reported weaker results, but many still beat analyst expectations.

J.C. Penney Inc. said same-store sales fell 4.4%, better than the 5.8% analysts expected. Footwear and women's accessories were strong performers, while jewelry and home categories were softer.

Saks Inc. said same-store sales fell 8.7%, while analysts predicted a 7.5% drop, but that was mainly due to the shift of a clearance event into April. Combined April and May same-store sales rose 8.6%.

Nordstrom Inc. reported a 10.9% increase in same-store sales, while analysts predicted a smaller 8.1% rise.

Many mall-based stores continued to struggle. Limited Brands Inc. said same-store sales fell 6%, missing the 5.5% drop analysts expected.

Gap Inc.'s same-store sales fell 14%, hurt by results from its Old Navy Stores. The result was worse than the 9.5% decline analysts expected.

Teen retailers had mixed results. American Eagle Outfitters Inc. said same-store sales fell 9%, worse than the 4.8% drop analysts predicted. Meanwhile, Aeropostale Inc. was a strong performer in the teen segment, with a 6% rise, helped by positive reaction to its summer merchandise.

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