WASHINGTON — Sales at apparel specialty stores and discounters fell in August during the heart of the back-to-school season, running counter to the overall retail sales gain in the month, the U.S. Commerce Department’s monthly retail sales report showed Friday.

Apparel and accessories stores posted a 0.1 percent seasonally adjusted decline to $19.9 billion in August compared with July, while sales at general merchandise stores, a category that includes department stores and discounters, fell 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 August.
In the overall economy, retail sales rose 0.9 percent to $406.7 billion.