Back-to-school sales off to slow start

In this July 6, 2011 photo, shoppers make their way through a Scheels department store, in Springfield, Ill. Retailers are reporting solid sales gains for July Thursday, Aug. 4, 2011, as deep discounts and sweltering heat drove shoppers to air conditioned malls. But with growing concerns about the economy, analysts worry shoppers heading back to malls for back-to-school shopping will hold tight to some of the habits of the Great Recession _ focusing on necessities and waiting for big discounts.(AP Photo/Seth Perlman)
Seth Perlman

NEW YORK U.S. retailers are reporting a slow start to the critical back-to-school shopping season in July. Shoppers focused on discounted summer merchandise but held off on picking up new fall clothing in an uncertain economy.

Revenue at stores open at least a year -- an industry measure of a retailer's health -- rose 3.8 percent in July, the slowest pace since March, according to a preliminary tally of 10 retailers by the International Council of Shopping Centers. The figure was below a 5.5 percent increase in June.

Costco Wholesale Corp. was among the retailers posting disappointing figures.

Only a sliver of retail chains now report monthly sales figures. But Thursday's figures add to other evidence that shoppers are being cautious about their back-to-school purchases.