By  on September 16, 2012

WASHINGTON — Retailers lost pricing power in August, as sales fell during what was seen as a heavy period of discounting in the back-to-school season, two government reports showed Friday.

Sales at apparel and accessories stores and discounters declined in August, running counter to the overall retail sales gain in the month, the U.S. Commerce Department’s monthly retail sales report showed Friday. Specialty stores posted a 0.1 percent seasonally adjusted sales decline to $19.9 billion last month compared with July, while sales at general merchandise stores, a category that includes department stores and discounters, dropped 0.3 percent to $52.4 billion. Department stores showed the only sign of strength, with sales rising 0.1 percent to $15.3 billion in the month.

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