By  on August 13, 2013

WASHINGTON — Consumers heading into the back-to-school season stepped up their purchases of apparel and accessories in July as specialty stores, department stores and discounters all posted gains, according to the monthly retail sales report released by the Commerce Department on Tuesday.

Sales at apparel and accessories stores rose a seasonally adjusted 0.9 percent last month to $21 billion, while sales at general merchandise stores, a category that includes discounters and department stores, increased 0.4 percent to $55.1 billion in July. Department stores posted a 0.6 percent rise in sales to $14.5 billion.

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