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US retailers report modest gains for May

Jun. 07, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

NEW YORK -- In the latest sign that Americans are feeling better about the overall economy, stores across the country had a pickup in sales in May.

An improving job picture, better housing market and stock market rallies have all led to consumer confidence reaching five-year highs. That has left Americans a bit more likely to reach into their pockets and spend, as monthly revenue reports released by national retailers on Thursday show.

Revenue at stores open at least a year -- an industry measure of a store's health -- rose 3.4 percent in May compared with the same month a year ago, according to a preliminary tally of 13 retailers by the International Council of Shopping Centers.

The increase continues a gradual sales uptick that began in early spring. The measure rose 3 percent in April.

"It's good, not great," said Michael Niemira, chief economist at the ICSC. "Some underlying improvement in the U.S. economy along with an improving 'wealth effect' from rising stock and home prices is helping to lift the sales pace,"

He expects the gradual increase to continue, predicting revenue to rise 3 to 3.5 percent in June.

While big chains such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Target Corp and Macy's Inc. don't report monthly revenue, the stores that do offer economists a snapshot of consumer spending habits. In total, the retailers that report monthly data represent about 6 percent of the $2.4 trillion in U.S. retail industry sales.

L Brands Inc., which operates Victoria's Secret and Bath and Body Works, and was formerly known as Limited Brands, said the figure rose 3 percent, slightly below analysts' expectations of a 3.2 percent increase.

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