Paulina Roman, 10, looks at girls clothing while school shopping at a J.C. Penney store in Phoenix on Wednesday. The back-to-school shopping season had a disappointing start in July as consumers rattled by a weakening housing market and other financial pressures stayed away from stores and malls. As merchants reported sluggish monthly sales results Thursday, the weakest performers were mall-based apparel chains. Among the few stands were Penney’s and Costco Wholesale Corp., both of which beat expectations.

AP photo

Paulina Roman, 10, looks at girls clothing while school shopping at a J.C. Penney store in Phoenix on Wednesday. The back-to-school shopping season had a disappointing start in July as consumers rattled by a weakening housing market and other financial pressures stayed away from stores and malls. As merchants reported sluggish monthly sales results Thursday, the weakest performers were mall-based apparel chains. Among the few stands were Penney’s and Costco Wholesale Corp., both of which beat expectations.

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