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Stores post lackluster sales

In the region, Rite Aid reported an increase, two other retailers a decrease, for May.

NEW YORK - Although consumer confidence may be increasing, it's not showing up at the cash register yet, according to reports on May sales released yesterday.

Many retailers posted disappointing results - and food and necessities remained the focus of shoppers' lists. That meant less spending on discretionary items, such as clothing, TVs, and other electronic equipment.

Separately, a Goldman Sachs/ICSC tally showed that overall same-store sales fell 4.6 percent last month from May last year, worse than the 3 percent drop predicted. May was the 10th straight month of declines in same-store sales, according to the figures from Goldman and the International Council of Shopping Centers.

Same-store sales, or sales at stores open at least a year, are a key indicator of retailer performance because they measure growth at existing stores rather than newly opened ones.

In the Philadelphia region, Rite Aid Corp. reported an increase in May same-store sales, while Destination Maternity Corp. and the Bon-Ton Stores Inc. said their sales were down.

Rite Aid. The Camp Hill, Pa., drugstore operator said its same-store sales grew 0.6 percent in May, buoyed by growing pharmacy sales at core stores.

Destination Maternity. Still feeling the effects of the closing of its leased departments in Sears stores in June 2008, the Philadelphia retailer of maternity apparel reported that May's same-store sales fell 5.4 percent.

Chief executive officer Ed Krell noted the difficult retail conditions, but he also said warmer-than-usual weather at the end of April had shifted to that month some sales that would have been expected in May.

Bon-Ton. The York, Pa., department store chain said its comparable sales fell 12.1 percent in May as it experienced soft sales in furniture, men's, home, and ladies' shoes.

Nationally, yesterday's lower-than-expected reports did not include Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which in recent months has boosted total results but has stopped reporting monthly figures.

The overall retail results are a "clear indication that the consumer is not stampeding back to the stores. They're still being very careful," said BMO Capital Markets analyst John Morris.

Luxury chains and department store operators continued to be the weakest sectors, with Saks Inc. and the Neiman Marcus Group Inc. reporting double-digit declines in sales last month compared with May 2008.

Discounters such as Ross Stores Inc. and teen apparel retailers such as The Buckle Inc. were stronger.

Weighing on the May results was the $50 billion federal stimulus, which shoppers received in May last year and retailers credited for a lift in sales then.