NEW YORK (CNNfn) - Apparel and houseware retailers suffered a moderate setback toward the end of the summer as sales in September slumped.
The results appeared particularly poor compared with August levels, which were helped by the apparel sector due to cooler weather.
"We've had a wide variety of excuses, whether it be Princess Diana's funeral, the weather, El Nino... Bottom line is August was better than planned and it stole a little bit from the month of September," said Dana Telsey, an analyst at Bear Stearns.
Sears Roebuck & Co. reported same-store sales, which are from stores opened for a year or more, inchedup1.5 percent in September. Kmart Corp. reported a 3.1 percent gain. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. -- the largest of the top three U.S. retailers -- reported a 4.2-percent sales jump Tuesday.
Among the poorest performing retailers were smaller shops that specialize in women's apparel.
"I think, for the most part, weakness was in soft goods," said Jeff Edelman, analyst at Deutsche Morgan Grenfell.
AnnTaylor Stores Corp. said sales plummeted 13.9 percent. The Limited Inc. said September sales dipped 7 percent. Talbots Inc., whose stock was down 8 percent, reported a 4.7-percent drop.
Still, larger department stores were able to offset part of the decline in apparel sales with housewares and other so-called "hard" goods.
"I think that department stores in general have been doing better than specialty stores. Each specialty store has its own problems in terms of fashion ... limited products," Edelman said.
Federated Department Stores Inc., which owns Bloomingdales and Macy's, reported a gain of 2.7 percent. Dayton Hudson Corp., parent company of Target, said sales rose 3.1 percent.
As a result of the warmer weather in September, retailers likely will need to have more mark-downs in October.
"October is normally clearance month. I think you'll see a shade more mark down come Columbus Day," said Steve Kernkraur, also an analyst at Bear Stearns.
-- Robert Liu