Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) Monday said August sales were meeting expectations so far, saying it was on track to meet its forecast of a 2 to 4 percent increase in August sales at U.S. stores open at least a year — a key retail measure known as same-store sales (search).

On a recorded message updating sales through Aug. 6, the retailer also said back-to-school demand picked up thanks to sales tax holidays in some states.

The world's biggest retailer said food, paper goods and pet supplies were among the top-selling categories for the week, while school uniforms, shoes and basic apparel also sold well.

The Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer said the number of shoppers in its stores increased as several states had their annual sales tax holidays which allow people to shop without paying sales tax.

Analysts had said July sales across the U.S. retail sector were hurt because Texas scheduled its sales tax holiday in August instead of July.

Wal-Mart repeated its cautionary comment that 2003 August sales were inflated by child tax credits, and it would be hard to top last year's strong 6.9 percent same-store sales gain.