If Wal-Mart's (NYSE:WMT) summer stays as bright as it has been so far, the world's leading retailer is going to have to turn over on its beach towel so it doesn't burn to a crisp. Yes, folks, Wal-Mart is that hot right now. Over the weekend, Wal-Mart announced that June sales likely came in 4.5% ahead of last year's showing. The company had originally projected growth at the store level to come in at between 2% and 4% for the five-week period.

It's the strongest gain in comps in more than a year for Wal-Mart. The discount giant reported that its seasonal merchandise sold briskly, and that really isn't much of a surprise. It's been hot and mostly sunny through most of the country, so everything from outdoor grills to swimsuits to patio furniture is no doubt selling well.

The improvement is not necessarily due to having more people in the stores -- the company said the average consumer has simply been spending more at its stores over the past week.

This doesn't mean that the economy is booming. It certainly doesn't mean that the other retailers will follow with impressive showings when companies start reporting their June comps later this week.

Discounters like Wal-Mart, Target (NYSE:TGT), and Sears Holdings' (NASDAQ:SHLD) Kmart thrive on the thrifty, so they tend to perform well during good times and bad.

If one sector may be taking comfort in the report, it's the struggling supermarket industry. Wal-Mart indicated that its recent improvement has been coming more from its general merchandise than from its ever-growing grocery categories. Chains like Kroger (NYSE:KR), Albertson's (NYSE:ABS), and Safeway (NYSE:SWY) have had a rough time competing against Wal-Mart's dirt-cheap Supercenter offerings over the years.

So maybe this is the start of the summer where every retailer has a shot to come out smiling. Yes, maybe 2005 will prove to be the summer of love.

More places to go with time dangling in your pocket:

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz likes to do his shopping in reasonable amounts. He does not own shares in any companies mentioned in this story. The Fool has a disclosure policy. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.