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Tough August for US

Gap was among the US retailers to post disappointing August sales last week as a late back-to-school period and continued consumer caution slowed retail spending.

The US casualwear giant’s like-for-like sales fell 8% over the month. Net sales were down 5% to US$1.14 billion (£646.2 million).

Gap’s international stores, which includes its UK operation, fared better than the core US chain, with like-for-like sales slipping 2%. Its worst performing division was Banana Republic, North America, where comparable sales plummeted by 14%.

Despite the poor results, Gap said it had driven margin improvements over the period.

Young fashion chain American Eagle Outfitters said its total sales were up 3% to US$320m (£181.3m) for the four weeks ended September 1. Like-for-like sales were down 5%, dragged down by poor performance in womenswear which declined by mid-teen digits. Menswear comparables were up in the high single digits for the month. The company said its comparable store performance for the 30 week year-to-date period was down by 7%.

Department stores also had a tough month. Like-for-like sales at JC Penney slumped 4.9% and total sales fell 3.2% to US$1.5bn (£849m). But the firm said business picked up at the end of the month with the back-to-school rush. Family footwear and womenswear performed best.

Sales at department store chain Kohl’s increased 2.6% to US$1.2bn (£679.4m), with like-for-likes down 5.8%. Kevin Mansell, Kohl’s president and chief executive, said: “Some back-to-school business such as footwear and kids’ performed well, while other areas such as juniors and young men’s were more challenging.”

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