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Stalled sales for March same-stores

Stalled out by snow and freezing rain, and hobbled further by a late Easter this year, same-store retail sales continued their downward spiral, tumbling by 2.5 percent during the fifth and final week of March, the Redbook Retail Sales Average reported.

The deep decline followed an even steeper drop of 2.8 percent the prior week.

Still struggling in a sputtering economy were the nation's full-price department stores, which rely heavily on discretionary spending, where sales fell by 7.2 percent, following a steep drop of 8.3 percent the preceding week.

Even the big discounters were taking it on the chin, as they ran virtually flat during the week, eking out a skimpy gain of 0.4 percent, half the size of the prior week's 0.8 percent increase. Earlier in the month, discounter sales had climbed as high as 1.4 percent.

For the entire month, the Redbook Retail Sales Average fell by 1.7 percent, far worse than a targeted decline of 0.5 percent. Department stores turned in the weakest performance, same-store sales dropping by 5.9 percent, almost twice the size of a forecast decline of 3.1 percent. Discounters as well missed their March sales target, with an increase of 1.1 percent falling just shy of a planned 1.2 percent.

Taking its toll on sales in addition to the late Easter holiday, was unseasonably soggy weather across much of the country, said Redbook analyst Catlin Levis. "Two weeks into spring, a snowstorm, freezing rain and heavy winds fell on parts of the Northeast and Midwest on Friday, affecting regional sales totals." Underlying sales trends, said Levis, "showed little change during the week."

Sales for almost all of March were hurt by the late Easter, which pushed holiday sales into April results. But the difficult comparison gets left behind now, said Levis, and April sales should start running well ahead. "Following a below-plan March, our preliminary target for April is for year-over-year growth of 2.7 percent, which would result in a month-to-month gain against March of 5.1 percent."

Redbook Retail Sales Average
Fifth week of March

Week ended 3/8 3/15 3/22 3/29 4/5 Month Target
*Including chain stores and traditional department stores.
Source: Redbook Retail Sales Average, a unit of Instinet, a Reuters company.
Department stores* -3.6 -5.2 -5.0 -8.3 -7.2 -5.9 -3.1
Discounters 1.1 1.2 1.4 0.8 0.4 1.1 1.2
Redbook Average -0.7 -1.3 -1.1 -2.8 -2.5 -1.7 -0.5


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