Saks Inc. announced Thursday morning that total company-owned sales for the four weeks ended May 27 increased 1.9%, while sales on a comparable-store basis for the period were up a scant 0.7% over last year.

Though hardly earth-shattering, May's results represent an improvement over negative comp-store results posted for March and April. Four months into the year, the company said this morning, total company-owned sales are up 2.3%, while sales increased 1.2% on a comparable stores basis. Those numbers lie below our own sales growth estimate for the end of the current year, which stands at 3.1%.

Saks said that in May, merchandise categories with the best sales performance came from the Saks Fifth Avenue men's and women's apparel groups. No surprise here, as the company has announced strong results from that segment over the last several months. May results also include strong sales in accessories, cosmetics, shoes, fine jewelry and home items at both Saks Fifth Avenue and traditional department stores.

Softer sales performances came from the women's, men's and children's apparel offerings in the company's traditional department stores - a trend that has also been, rather disappointingly, par for the course in recent months.

Overall, the positive May sales tallies, weak though they may be, offer some hope that management efforts to combat underperformance are paying off. As reported in our last update, which chronicled first quarter results, Saks executives said during a conference call that the company would focus on growing sales in higher-margin categories including accessories and shoes.

In terms of peer comparisons, other retailers announced mixed sales results for the month of May on Thursday. Dillard's Inc. (NYSE: DDS) said same-store sales decreased by 1%. May Department Stores Inc. (NYSE: MAY)announced that store-for-stores sales increased 1.2%. Federated Department Stores Inc. (NYSE:FD), the parent company of Macy's and Bloomingdale's, racked up a 4.2% increase in May same-store sales. The Neiman Marcus Group (NYSE:NMG/A) said comp-store revenues grew 6.6%.

Over the near term, we're hoping to see the summer months offset chilled sales results seen during March and April as Saks makes its way toward meeting our growth estimates, and focuses on turning around results at the traditional department stores. In addition, the launch of Saks' e-commerce web site, slated for this summer, should give the company a sales boost during the third quarter.