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Updated from 9:16 a.m. EDT

Retailers had mixed success navigating May's chill this year, although the general trend in Thursday's sales numbers was positive.

The International Council of Shopping Centers reported that overall same-store sales, a key metric measuring sales at stores open at least a year, rose 2.9% in May from a year earlier, based on a survey of more than 70 chains.

The growth fell just short of ICSC's estimated range of 3% to 3.5%, but observers took heart that a slew of retailers were still able to post solid returns despite cold weather throughout the month.

"There were a few surprises here on the surface, but the underlying trend remains moderate and steady," said Mike Niemera, ICSC's chief economist and director of research. "Our sources tell is that last month measured as the coldest May for retailing in 22 years, so weather was working against the industry.

"These results give us reason to be optimistic about the summer months, when the weather improves and comparisons get easier," Niemera adds. "The major trends remain in place, with strength in luxury, teen clothing and men's clothing."

For the biggest retailer,

Wal-Mart

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, the month was uneventful. The company said May same-store sales rose 2.5% from a year ago, compared with Wall Street estimates of 2.5%. It estimated June comps at up 2% to 4%, in line with its performance for most of the year.

Wal-Mart's chief competitor,

Target

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, said it expects comps in a range from 4% to 6% in June. The retailer reported last week that its May same-store sales rose 5.1%, slightly above forecasts.

Costco

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, meanwhile, said May same-store sales rose 5% from a year ago, above expectations for a 4.4% rise, while

Big Lots

(BLI)

posted a 0.2% rise in May comps, missing estimates for a 2% gain.

Nordstrom

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was a standout, with a 7.4% gain in same-store sales for the month, exceeding the 4% estimate. Total sales rose 9.3% to $545.5 million.

Among other department store chains,

J.C. Penney

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reported same-store sales for the month up 3.5% over last year. Its total sales rose 5% to $1.1 billion. For June, the retailer said it expects comps in the low-single digits.

May

(MAY)

, which agreed earlier this year to be acquired by

Federated

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, said its comps fell 2.9%.

Federated disappointed Wall Street, posting a 0.8% rise in same-store sales. The operator of Macy's and Bloomingdale's cited weakness resulting from unseasonably cool weather in May. Total sales came to 1.19 billion for the month, up 0.7% from the year-earlier period.

The specialty apparel giant,

Gap

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, said May comps dropped 8% on total sales of $1.17 billion, down 3% from the same period last year. The company, nevertheless, affirmed its profit forecast of $1.44 to $1.48 a share for 2005.

Teen-apparel retailers were a mixed bag, with

Abercrombie & Fitch

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posting a 29% jump in comps. Its total sales rose 43% to $159 million.

Also,

American Eagle

(AEOS)

beat Wall Street's expectations with a 17.1% jump in comps. Its total sales increased 25.8% to $140.9 million.

On the downside,

Hot Topic

(HOTT)

, a mall-based chain specializing in alternative stylings for teens, said its comps dipped 1.9% in May compared with the same month last year. Its total sales rose 15% to $43.3 million.

Aeropostale

(ARO)

, another teen-apparel chain, reported its comps declined 4.9%. Its total sales were up 15.7% to $62.6 million.

Pacific Sunwear

(PSUN)

reported a 2.4% rise in comps over last year. Its total sales rose 11.3% to $80.7 million.

In upscale retailing,

Neiman Marcus

(NMGA)

said its comps rose 11%. Its total sales rose 10.2% to $269 million.

Neiman posted a higher-than-expected profit for its third fiscal quarter ended April 30. It earned $80 million, or $1.61 a share, in the third fiscal quarter ended April 30, from $69 million, or $1.40 a share, a year earlier. Analysts were expecting earnings of only $1.56 a share, according to consensus estimates reported by Thomson First Call.

Last month, Neiman Marcus agreed to be acquired by two private equity firms.