Leading U.S. retailers had a mixed March, with discount and wholesale retailers reporting better sales in March than higher priced department stores and specialty retailers as shoppers face a slowing U.S. economy which may already be in a mild recession.

A growing number of economists, including researchers at the International Monetary Fund are predicting a mild recession for the U.S. economy. The head of the U.S. Federal Reserve recently acknowledged the chance of some contraction is possible this year, followed by growth in the second half of the year.

Thursday's results record same-store sales, a popular industry metric, which tracks sales at stores open at least one year.

The largest U.S. retailer, discounter Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. said its results were up by 0.7 percent excluding gasoline sales. Wholesale retailer Costco jumped 11 percent. Rival Target Corp declined 4.4 percent.

Department stores struggled, with the largest, J.C. Penney Co. falling 12 percent. Kohl's was down even more at 15.5 percent. Regional department store Stage Stores' results were off by 10 percent. Upscale department store Saks Inc saw a 2.9 percent decline.

Specialty retailers also saw declining sales.

Young adult retailer Gap Inc fell 18 percent. Limited Brands Inc., which sells lingerie and beauty products, saw an 8 percent drop.

Youth and teen retailers were also mostly lower. Abercrombie & Fitch Co. retreated 10 percent. American Eagle dropped 12 percent. Wet Seal Inc, specializing in apparel for teens and young women was down 10.8 percent. Breaking the trend was Buckle Inc which rose 21 percent.