July was a relatively decent month at retail as the last of the government’s stimulus checks met with a hot spell that spread across much of the country. Retail industry comparable-store sales for the four-week fiscal month of July posted a 2.6% increase on a year-over-year basis according to a preliminary tally of 38 retail-chain stores compiled by the International Council of Shopping Centers. Although the gain was softer than the prior month’s hefty 4.2% rise, the July performance was in line with its year-to-date 2.5% average monthly year-over-year growth rate trend.

Comps were boosted by a strong performance from Wal-Mart as consumers continue to search out low prices.  Excluding Wal-Mart, monthly comps increased 1.4% of the year-ago month. Discount stores sales rose 2.3% in July and wholesale clubs rose by 9.5% (or 5.2% excluding fuel). However, apparel specialty sales were off 5.5% and department store sales were down 5.7%. Both teen retailers (-3.5%) and luxury department stores (-5.1%) posted declines in July.