Solid August for Many Retailers

New York City, Soaring gas prices did not deter consumers from shopping in August. A diverse group of retailers, including Costco Wholesale Corp., Wet Seal Inc., Neiman Marcus, J.C. Penney Co. and Nordstrom, reported strong results for the month. Although many retailers beat Wall Street expectations, Wal-Mart’s sales came in slightly below analysts’ estimates as low-income shoppers felt the sting of higher energy costs.

Not all retailers, however, enjoyed a solid August. Limited Brands Inc. and Gap Inc. both reported sales drops. Limited suffered a 3% drop in same-store sales for the month, while Gap Inc.’s same-store sales were down 9%.

As for September, the impact of Katrina is still unclear, but worries are mounting that the fallout will slow what has been a steadily growing economy and reverse the steady gain in job gains. The latest news from the Labor Department on job claims, announced today, was not encouraging. The government said the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits rose by 3,000 last week to a seven-week high of 320,000. Those claims are expected to rise significantly in the week ahead as laid-off workers in New Orleans and other areas hit by Hurricane Katrina file claims.