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Redbook: March retail sales pick up the pace

New York -- Picking up steam after a somewhat muted start to the month, same-store sales climbed by 2.7% during the second week of March, gaining on a 2.4% increase the prior week, the Johnson Redbook Index reported.

Sales at the nation's mass merchants rose by 3.1%, improving on a 2.9% gain the preceding week. For the two weeks month-to-date, discounter sales are on target with a 3.0% gain. Department store sales also improved on the prior week, advancing by 2.0%, compared with a 1.7% rise to start the month. But even with last week's bump, month-to-date department store sales were still slightly behind their target, rising by 1.9% and missing a goal of 2.0% "Sales were mixed to modestly firmer in the second week, but remained slightly below plan month to date," said Redbook analyst Catlin Levis.

An unfavorable comparison to last year's numbers is not unexpected by retailers because Easter falls three weeks later this year than last, pushing holiday sales into April.