CHICAGO -- Chain stores reported yesterday that their September sales were weak, confirming that consumers are feeling the double pinch of higher oil prices and a rising unemployment rate, analysts said.
Compared with September of 1989, Wal-Mart was among the strongest performers with a 9 percent increase for stores that have been open at least a year, also known as a comparable-store sales. Melville was up 18.8 percent. Several other retailers, however, reported sales declines.
The chains' September sales averaged a 1 percent decline from August, according to estimates by Martin Mauro, a senior economist at Merrill Lynch in New York, and Michael Niemira, an economist at Mitsubishi Bank, also in New York.
Mr. Niemira said chain stores averaged sales growth of 2.1 percent in September, the weakest increase since March, when growth averaged 2.9 percent.
Stores carrying necessities and lower-priced items generally did better than specialty stores, a trend expected to be borne out this Christmas, analysts said.
Sears, for example, did better than expected in September with a 4.4 percent sales increase, and K mart sales were up 0.7 percent.
Carol Palmer, an analyst for Duff & Phelps in Chicago, said consumer uneasiness about the economy has been compounded by the Persian Gulf situation.
Depending on the retailer, she said, Christmas might be tougher this year than it has been recently, but that chains such as Wal-Mart, K mart and Woolworth "will do OK."