July 7, 2005

U.S. retailers post strong June sales

CHICAGO (Reuters) - U.S. shoppers snapped up summer
clothing and air conditioners in June as a heat wave drove
better-than-expected sales, retailers said on Thursday, calming
concerns that steep energy prices slowed consumer spending.

Luxury chains continued their strong run while many teen
retailers turned in double-digit sales growth. Discount chains,
including Wal-Mart Stores Inc. , which have been under
pressure in recent months as soaring gasoline prices curbed
discretionary spending, also showed surprisingly strong gains.

June is typically a month of clearance sales as retailers
make room for back-to-school merchandise, but analysts said the
strong summer demand meant many retailers kept discounts to a
minimum. A few retailers raised quarterly earnings forecasts.

An unusually cool spring had left many stores overloaded
with summer clothing and outdoor gear, but temperatures rose
across much of the country in June, bolstering demand.

Merrill Lynch said weather-driven demand was up 3 percent
for the month, following three consecutive months of falling
demand, citing data gathered by its weather consultants,

Wal-Mart, the world's biggest retailer, confirmed that its
June sales rose 4.5 percent at U.S. stores open at least a
year, topping its forecast for a 2 percent to 4 percent gain.
Analysts had expected just 3.7 percent growth, according to
estimates compiled by Reuters.

But Wal-Mart also said expenses continued to pressure
profits, and the stronger June sales probably would not be
enough to push quarterly earnings above Wall Street forecasts.

Wal-Mart forecast a 3 percent to 5 percent increase in July
sales at its stores open at least a year, also known as
same-store sales. Last year, Wal-Mart's July same-store sales
rose 3.2 percent.

Analysts were awaiting results from rival Target Corp.
, which said last week that its June sales were running
ahead of forecasts.

Upscale department store Nordstrom Inc. reported an
8.1 percent jump in its June same-store sales, ahead of
forecasts for a 7 percent increase.

Clothing retailer Limited Brands Inc. reported flat
June sales at its stores open at least a year, beating
analysts' expectations for a decline of 0.9 percent.

American Eagle Outfitters Inc. and Charming
Shoppes Inc. both said quarterly profits would beat
analysts' expectations thanks to strong June sales.