Back-to-school season should be 'one of best': Retail expert

June's retail funk
June's retail funk

While U.S. retail sales increased less than expected in June, apparel retailers are doing well and should see more strength in the back half of the year, two retail experts told CNBC's "Street Signs" Tuesday.

"Apparel is good and there are a lot of new trends out there that we think the customer will respond to for fall," said retail analyst Mary Epner, a former executive of Saks Fifth Avenue and Aeropostale.

"We think it's going to be one of the best retail back-to-school fall periods that we've seen in a long time."

Retail sales rose 0.2 percent last month after an upwardly revised 0.5 percent in May, according to the Commerce Department. Economists polled by Reuters expected a 0.6 percent rise after a previously reported 0.3 percent gain in May.

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However, core sales, which do not include automobiles, gasoline, food services and building materials, increased 0.6 percent in June. Core sales correspond closely with the consumer spending component of gross domestic product.

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"The reason we've seen slow sales for the last six months is that the cars and home have sucked business out of my kind of discretionary retail, and that's about to change," said CNBC contributor Jan Kniffen.

"In the back half, we're going to see strength in the retail apparel side of the business."

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It's the retailers who embrace digital and mobile apps that will see the biggest boost in their back-to-school sales because it connects them to customers in a way the mall can't, Epner said.

"We're going to continue to see business shift away from the mall to these retailers who have done it well," Epner said.

Those names include Macy's, J.C. Penney and Urban Outfitters, she added.

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Kniffen also likes Macy's, which he said has been executing well. He also expects to see better business out of J.C. Penney.

However, he thinks there will be mixed results in the teen space, which is "fiercely competitive." In fact, Kniffen said there has been speculation about takeovers of many teen retailers, including names like Abercrombie & Fitch and Aeropostale.

"There are hedge funds out there looking at retail, and I think we'll see some activity, but whether it will really be Aeropostale or somebody else, who knows," he noted. "The point is some of these guys have really struggled."

—By CNBC's Michelle Fox, with Reuters.