Can Back-to-School Shoppers Give July Sales a Boost?

With signs that the economic recovery is slowing, the latest reads on consumer confidence and personal spendinghave provided little encouragement that shoppers are starting to spend again. However, July marks the start of back-to-school shopping, and since parents have to buy clothing for their growing children, it may give a much-needed boost to retail sales.

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Thus far, there are signs that parents are procrastinating, in order to snag the best deals. Teen unemployment also may weigh on clothing stores that cater to teens like American Eagle and Aeropostale .

One assessment of how consumers are shopping comes Thursday as chain stores report same-store sales, a key measure that tracks sales at stores open at least 12 months.

Investors will see how retailers from the high-end—JW Nordstrom and Saks —to the discounters like Target are performing.

The industry's performance in general will be helped by comparisons to the year-ago period when sales were lackluster.

The following table is a list of average estimates from analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters and same-stores sales results for last year:

July Same-Store Sales Estimates

July 2010 Estimates
July 2009 Actuals
Costco Wholesale (excluding gas) 4.7% n/a
BJ Wholesale (excluding gas) 3.8% 1.8%
Target 2.3% (6.5%)
JC Penney 3.4% (12.3%)
Kohl's Department Store 4.1% 0.4%
Dillards Department Store 1.5% (12%)
JW Nordstrom 8.1% (6.9%)
Saks Department Store 5.1% (16.3%)
Stage Stores 5.0% (11.9%)
Macy's 5.9% (10.7%)
Gap 0.1% (8.0%)
TJX 2.4% 4.0%
Limited 5.2% (7.0%)
Ross Stores 3.5% 4.0%
Stein Mart (2.0%) (5.5%)
Abercrombie 4.1% (28.0%)
American Eagle (0.2%) (11.0%)
Aeropostale 7.1% 6.0%
Hot Topic (2.6%) (8.5%)
Wet Seal (3.4%) (12.1%)
The Buckle (1.0%) 2.8%
Zumiez 8.5% (16.8%)
Walgreen 1.6% 2.0%
Rite Aid (1.0%) (0.6%)
Source: Thomson Reuters; company reports. Figures in parenthesis are losses.

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