Friday, October 9, 2009

US Retail Sales Rise In September, Raise Holiday Hopes

US retail sales rise in Sept, raise holiday hopes

By Jessica Wohl

CHICAGO, Oct 8 (Reuters) - U.S. retailers gave investors an early Christmas present, posting their first monthly sales increase in more than a year and suggesting wounded consumers might begin to heal in time for the crucial holiday season.

Chains such as Macy's Inc (M.N), Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF.N) and Kohl's Corp (KSS.N) surprised Wall Street on Thursday with better-than-expected September sales as shoppers headed back to stores for back-to-school purchases.

"It signals a bottom," said Wharton School marketing professor Stephen Hoch. "This month was not just not as bad as we thought it could be, but it was actually not so bad."

But retail experts cautioned that the sales results did not yet presage a consumer-driven recovery to the U.S. economy. The International Council of Shopping Centers said October same-store sales should be about flat with a year earlier.

"It might be too early to say consumers are actually coming back to the stores and spending more," said Booz & Co Principal Marcelo Tau. "I still feel that there is a lot of pressure on consumers."

Based on 30 retailers, sales at stores open at least a year climbed 0.6 percent, compared with expectations for a 1.1 percent decline, according to Thomson Reuters data. Nearly 80 percent of the companies beat expectations.

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