With the important back-to-school season next on the retail calendar, consumers gave merchants the kind of month they had been hoping for after a good but not great first half of the year. Combined with better-than-expected labor market data Thursday, the retail report led to a stock market rally and helped lift optimism a day before U.S. employment figures were released.
"It was a very robust month. It's the type of momentum that the retailers would like to build and carry over into back-to-school," said Ken Perkins, president of research firm Retail Metrics Inc. Combined with other improving economic trends, "it seems to suggest that we're pulling out of a soft patch and there's going to be a stronger second half of economic growth."
Major chain stores posted a 6.5% year-over-year increase in sales, better than the 4.9% that analysts had been expecting, according to Thomson Reuters' tally of 25 retailers. Every retail category, including discounters, department stores and apparel sellers, posted gains that beat estimates.
With retailers offering their deepest discounts of the year so far, many shoppers said they'd been spending more freely in recent weeks.
June's top performers reflected a well-rounded mix of stores. Warehouse club Costco Wholesale Corp. said sales rose 14%, apparel company Limited Brands posted a 12% gain and teen retailer Zumiez Inc. said sales were up 9.8%.
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