LOS ANGELES — Despite slower job gains and signs of flagging consumer confidence, consumers hit the malls in May to refresh their wardrobes as the summer shopping season began.
Major chain stores posted a 3.9 percent sales increase in May compared with the same month a year earlier, beating analysts' expectations of a 3.6 percent rise, according to Thomson Reuters' tally of 18 retailers.
Top performers were a mixture of high- and low-end stores. Action-sports chain Zumiez led the way with a 13.7 percent bump. Luxury retailer Nordstrom saw sales rise 5.3 percent. Benefiting from a continuing thrifty mind-set, off-price retailers Ross Stores and TJX saw an 8 percent rise. Limited Brands, parent company of Victoria's Secret and Bath & Body Works, said sales rose 6 percent.
The healthy May jump in sales came on the heels of a poor April, when more than half of retailers posted lower-than-expected results.
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Some retailers did not fare as well in May. Struggling teen clothier Wet Seal said sales fell 8.8 percent, while department store chain Kohl's reported a 4.2 percent drop.
All told, about 69 percent of retailers beat expectations, Thomson Reuters said.
Analysts said recent signs of smaller job gains were balanced out with Mother's Day promotions and falling gas prices, which prompted some people to reopen their wallets for summer apparel.
Results are based on sales at stores open at least a year, known as same-store sales and considered an important measure of a retailer's health because the figure excludes the effect of stores' openings and closings.