International News - Hurricane-hit US faces tough September trade

The aftermath of hurricanes Ivan and Frances continue to affect US retail sales, sparking fears that September will be tough month.

In a weekly sales update on Monday, analysts at Merrill Lynch noted: 'We believe that a number of retailers, particularly the department stores, were slightly below plan in the third week of the month.'

The fall in sales was driven by warmer conditions across the centre of the US and the abnormally wet conditions on the east coast because of the combined impact of hurricanes Frances and Ivan.

This follows lacklustre trading conditions in August, when retail sales fell 0.3 per cent.

Of the department stores, Dillard's, Federated and Neiman have the greatest concentration of stores in Florida, which generates about 6 per cent of US retail sales.