Pent-up demand for back-to-school merchandise helped propel sales to their largest increase in more than two-and-a-half years last week.
The International Council of Shopping Centers and Goldman Sachs index of chain store sales ballooned 4.8 percent in the week ended Saturday versus the comparable week of 2013, its largest increase since the final week of 2011.
ICSC noted that the year-ago week was soft, indicative of the generally easier comparisons that retailers will be facing in the second half of the retail year, which began last month.
While up on a year-over-year basis, the increase was miniscule — just 0.02 percent — when weighed against the retail activity of the prior week, which ended Aug. 23.
ICSC characterized business as “healthy overall” and, for value-oriented wholesale clubs and dollar stores, “extremely strong.” Still, the pace of business at department, apparel, drug, discount, furniture and electronics stores was also vigorous.
ICSC research consultant Michael Niemira projected sales gains for August would be between 4 and 5 percent based on the month’s strong finish. A small sample of retailers will report same-store sales results for the month on Thursday.
Weather trends for the week were favorable for shopping, 2.6 degrees cooler than last year’s week but 2 degrees warmer than the long-term national average.
The recent drop in gasoline prices also worked in retailers’ favor. Prices for a gallon of unleaded gas were 4.4 percent below their year-ago level.