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Department stores outpace discounters in March comps

New York -- Same-store retail sales jumped up by 4.7% during the fourth week of March, largely on the rising strength of the nation's full-price department stores, which offset continued disappointing results at discounters.

Department-store comps soared higher by 6.3%, the Johnson Redbook Index reported, far surpassing a more modest gain of 3.7% at mass merchants.

For the four weeks month to date, overall same-store sales missed their target -- up 4.1% vs. a hoped for 4.4% -- held in check by softness at discounters. So far this month, discounter sales rose 3.2%, lagging far behind a goal of 4.0%. But department stores, still on a roll, pushed sales for the four-week period up 5.5%, easily besting a 4.9% target.

Measured against the month before, overall sales rose by 0.9%, lagging a target of 1.2% growth.

Redbook analyst Catlin Levis said department stores "continued to gat her strength," helped by Easter- related sales and activity in seasonal merchandise such as apparel, footwear and accessories."

Levis said, "Discounters noted that increased business in food, certain apparel lines, toys and candy were typical of this holiday. Easter buying continued to show its traditional territorial bias, and was more intense in the southern states."

Johnson Redbook chart

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