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Many retailers report September sales declines

NEW YORK — Early September reports from retailers show sales are still falling for many amid worries about jobs and tight credit, but many of the results came in better than expected.

As stores announced their results Thursday, teen retailer Wet Seal Inc. and Macy's Inc. reported smaller-than-expected declines in sales at stores opened at least a year. The measure is considered a key indicator of a retailer's health.

The comparison is to a weak September last year when business plummeted during the financial meltdown.

Limited Brands Inc. and accessories chain The Buckle Inc. both posted sales increases for the month.

Still, “consumers remain under pressure on multiple fronts,” said Ken Perkins, president of retail research firm Retail Metrics. “I don't think consumer spending is going to see a substantial uptick. Shoppers are concerned about rebuilding their balance sheets.”

According to a preliminary tally by Thomson Reuters, nine stores beat Wall Street estimates, while four retailers' results missed expecations.

September sales also benefited this year from a late Labor Day and this year's later school openings.

Macy's had a 2.3 percent decline, less than the 4.6 percent drop that analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters had projected.

Limited Brands reported that sales in stores open at least a year rose 1 percent in September; that was better than the 2.4 percent slide that analysts had predicted.

Buckle Inc. said its sales at stores open at least a year rose 5.1 percent, a bit lower than the 5.8 percent gain that Wall Street anticipated.

Wet Seal had a 4.5 percent decline, but analysts had expected a 7.8 percent drop for September.

Stein Mart Inc. said sales at stores open at least a year fell 5.4 percent in September. Analysts had anticipated a 4 percent decline.

/AP-CS-10-08-09 0822EDT

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