May brought pleasant surprises for a number of leading retailers, including the world’s largest, while others struggled or failed to produce positive same-store results.

Leading the way, and topping analysts’ expectations, was retail giant Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which posted a 3.9 percent jump in comparable-store sales in its U.S. segment with a 4 percent increase at Wal-Mart stores and 3.6 percent growth at Sam’s Club. Analysts were expecting growth of 1.6 percent.

The company said it saw strength in its grocery, health and wellness and entertainment segments. Even the home area saw its first comp increase in more than two years.

Management expects U.S. comparable-store sales for June, excluding fuel, to grow 2 and 4 percent.

”This guidance represents both the underlying strength of our existing U.S. business and the potential benefit from the stimulus checks,” said Tom Schoewe, executive vice president and chief financial officer.

However, Target Corp. reported a 0.7 percent decline in its May same-store numbers. Off-pricer TJX Cos. managed a 2 percent increase and Ross Stores was up 7 percent.

Nordstrom generated a 10.9 percent comp increase, due in part to the earlier timing of a sale, while Saks Inc.’s same-store sales dropped 8.7 percent as women’s wear sales suffered and it shifted a sale into April.

In the middle tier, J.C. Penney was down 4.4 percent and Kohl’s off 7.2 percent, although both numbers were better than expected.

Specialty store results varied, sometimes dramatically. Teen retailer Buckle Inc. grew 34.7 percent and American Apparel soared 24 percent. But Gap Inc.’s overall comps were off 14 percent as it continued to be dragged down by its Old Navy chain, which reported a 25 percent plunge.

Abercrombie & Fitch said comps declined 1 percent, in line with estimates, while Aeropostale Inc. grew 6 percent.

American Eagle Outfitters missed expectations, falling 9 percent. Analysts on average expected a 4.7 percent drop.

Action sports retailer Zumiez Inc. outpaced expectations with a 0.2 percent jump. The consensus estimate called for a decline of 0.9 percent.

Chico’s FAS declined 16.9 percent on a same-store basis.

The Children’s Place saw a 10 percent increase.

Among department stores, Dillard’s said same-store sales were off 7 percent.

For more, check back with and see Friday’s issue of WWD.

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