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Apparel Sales Wilt In July Heat Wave

The July heat wave was a blessing for retailers of air conditioners and backyard pools, but it once again dried up sales for some big apparel merchants.

A mixed bag of sales results announced Thursday by the nation’s big store owners showed business improved last month for companies selling goods that could help people cool off. But merchants who had a good month generally weren’t celebrating very much, because heavy price markdowns on a backlog of merchandise left them with smaller profits.

And already poor apparel sales withered further. Gap Inc., Limited Inc. and the Mervyn’s division of Dayton Hudson Corp. had disappointing results.

July sales were “much ado about not too much,” said Jeffrey Edelman, a retail industry analyst with C.J. Lawrence Inc. “July is one of the least significant months, an inventory clearance month.”

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the nation’s largest retailer, said sales from stores open at least a year rose 4.9 percent from last July, while total sales were up 14.2 percent.

Sears, Roebuck and Co. said same-store sales advanced 9 percent and overall sales rose 8.4 percent.

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