NEW YORK – September offered the latest sign that Americans will shop, but only when they think they’re getting a deal.

The International Council of Shopping Centers said Thursday that revenue rose 5.5 percent in September, with several retailers, including Target, Limited Brands and Kohl’s, posting strong gains as consumers snagged discounted merchandise.

The revenue increases, which beat Wall Street estimates, leave uncertainty about whether retailers will have to offer more bargains to lure consumers to buy during the winter holiday shopping season. Retailers can make up to 40 percent of their revenue during the period, which runs from November through December.

“This past month shows consumers are rewarding retailers who are matching great merchandise with great deals — a clear signal to expect more and earlier promotions as we enter the holiday season, ” said Sherif Mityas, a partner in the retail practice at A.T. Kearney, a global management consulting firm.

For the holiday shopping period, The National Retail Federation, the nation’s largest retail trade group, expects sales to rise 2.8 percent to $465.6 billion. That would be smaller than the 5.2 percent increase during last year’s winter holidays, but slightly higher than the average increase of 2.6 percent for November and December over the past 10 years.

During September, shoppers for the most part stuck to the frugal shopping habits they adopted during the Great Recession. And retailers offered huge discounts: The Gap chain cut the price of women’s pants from 40 percent to 60 percent, for example, while teen retailer Abercrombie & Fitch marked down sweat pants by 40 percent.

Kohl’s Corp., which suffered a sales decline in August, bounced back with a better-than-expected 4.1 percent gain in revenue at stores opened at least a year, in part because it stepped up discounting to lure shoppers.

Meanwhile, cheap chic discounter Target Corp. reported a 5.3 percent revenue increase in September at stores open at least a year, marking the biggest increase monthly – excluding Easter month – since November 2007 when it recorded a 10.8 percent gain. Target said shoppers spent more in stores and more browsers were converted into buyers.