Consumers jumped on back-to-school and fall merchandise in August, helping retailers deliver same-store sales results well in excess of the mostly modest increases expected.

Thomson Reuters said that the median increase for reporting retailers was 3.6 percent versus projections of a 2 percent gain. Only one of the reporting stores, the embattled The Wet Seal Inc., finished the month with a decrease or missed same-store sales expectations. Its comparable-store sales, expected to drop 17 percent, were down 18.3 percent as The Clinton Group, holder of 6.6 percent of its shares, proceeded with an appeal to other shareholders to allow it to seat five directors and pursue strategic alternatives.


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Gap Inc., expected to report a healthy 5.4 percent increase, instead delivered a 9 percent gain for the month, led by Old Navy’s 12 percent advance and respective jumps of 9 and 8 percent for the U.S. operations of Gap and Banana Republic.

Macy’s Inc., expected to post a 3.6 percent gain, checked in with a 5.1 percent increase. “Sales exceeded our expectations in August, and the strength was broad-based across merchandise categories, geographies and channels,” said Terry Lundgren, the firm’s chairman, president and chief executive officer. “I am particularly pleased with our back-to-school results in the millennial customer categories and our improved performance in feminine apparel.”

Nordstrom Inc. enjoyed a 21 percent August comp bump, with comps at full-line stores up 24 percent and those at The Rack up 7.1 percent. Although the increase was nearly twice the 11.1 percent gain expected, the retailer noted that some of the strength in August was because of the later timing of a major sale. Combining the August result with the 5.3 percent advance in July, two-month comps were ahead 8.4 percent, the company said.

Saks Inc. has discontinued monthly reporting of same-store sales.

Kohl’s Corp. doubled its July increase with a 3.4 percent gain in August. “Our August sales reflect improvement in our merchandise content, inventory levels and marketing strategies,” said Kevin Mansell, chairman, president and ceo, adding that all regions and lines of business reported higher sales for the month, with footwear, men’s and children’s performing best.

Among other stores easily beating Wall Street expectations for the month were Stage Stores Inc., up 6.5 percent; Stein Mart Inc., up 5.6 percent, and Limited Brands Inc., which continued a long string of healthy monthly reports with 8 percent growth. Michael Glazer, president and ceo of Stage, noted “healthy back-to-school selling, strength in our missy and other women’s categories and strong full-price selling” as contributing to its best August increase since 2004.

Expected to report a 0.3 percent decline, The Buckle Inc. instead turned in a 4.5 percent increase. Zumiez Inc. will disclose August results after the close of the market today, when it reports second-quarter earnings.

The TJX Cos. Inc. and Ross Stores Inc., the nation’s leading off-price retailers, reported matching 8 percent comp increases for the month. Michael Balmuth, vice chairman and ceo of Ross, commented, “Our abiliy to deliver a wide array of name-brand bargains for back-to-school shoppers drove healthy traffic to our stores during the month.” Comp gains for September are expected to land between 2 and 3 percent and, for October, between 3 and 4 percent, he said.

Target Corp.’s 4.2 percent comp gain came against an estimate of 3.1 percent growth for the month.