CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) ¿ Women's apparel retailer Cato Corp. said Thursday its same-store sales fell 3 percent in May, as results a year ago were boosted by government stimulus checks.

Same-store sales, or sales at stores open at least a year, are a key measure of retailer performance, because they measure growth at existing stores rather than from newly opened ones.

Total sales declined 3 percent to $78.1 million from $80.5 million a year ago.

Sales for the 17 weeks ended May 30 rose 3 percent to $316.2 million from $306.3 million a year ago.

Same-store sales so far this year have declined 1 percent.

"We believe the benefit of the stimulus checks last year will continue to have an effect on same-store sales results in June," Chief Executive John Cato said in a statement.

The company owns the Cato and It's Fashion line of clothing stores.

Cato operates 1,329 stores in 32 states.
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