NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Back-to-school is one of the most important shopping events for the retail sector, and often serves as a bellwether for the holiday season.

As such, calling out the potential winners of the season could be used as a gauge for the performance of the retail sector in the second-half of the year.

Overall, expectations for back-to-school are high. The International Council of Shopping Centers is forecasting a 5.4% surge to $38.4 billion for the July-to-September period. This follows a 2.8% decrease in 2009 back-to-school period and 0.4% slip in 2008, and would mark the biggest back-to-school gain since 2005, when retailers saw a 6.4% surge.

The National Retail Federation also predicts American families will spend $606.40 on average for back-to-school, topping $600 for the first time ever. This would be a 10.5% increase over last year.

This, of course, comes after last year's dismal July to September period, where even some of the strongest competitors fumbled. Target ( TGT), for one, saw same-store sales fall 3.7% for the three-month period and Urban Outfitters ( URBN)said second-quarter comparable sales dropped 6%. Kohl's ( KSS) posted a 2% gain and the biggest winner was Aeropostale ( ARO), which averaged a same-store sales jump of about 11% for the period.

Investors are jittery as the selling period kicks into high gear. The S&P Retail Index is down nearly 10% over the past month, as fear grows that consumers will be hesitant to open their wallets and spend at full-price. This could make it a good time to pick up retail stocks who are poised to lead the pack this fall.

On that note, which retail stock -- Aeropostale, Target, Urban Outfitters or Kohl's -- do you think will outperform the retail sector for back-to-school? Take our poll below to see the consensus of TheStreet.

Which retail stock do you think will outperform the retail sector during back-to-school season?

Urban Outfitters

-- Reported by Jeanine Poggi in New York.


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