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Retail sales remain below plan

Continuing a steady summer-long erosion, triggered by unseasonably hot weather and consumers made jittery by a sputtering economy, same-store retail sales fell below plan for a third straight week during the third week of August, according to the Redbook Retail Sales Average.

Despite summer clearance sales and the big Back-to-School event, same-store sales during the week were virtually flat with month-before levels, and for the three weeks month-to-date fell 1.6 percent beneath July, worse than a small targeted decline of 0.4 percent.

Measured against last year, same-store sales edged ahead a mingy 0.2 percent for the three-week period, far short of a forecast gain of 1.5 percent.

"Sales continued below plan for the third consecutive week," said Redbook analyst Catlin Levis. "At this point in their calendars, most retailers are seeing business generally balanced between summer clearance and Back-to-School fall buying, although clearance activity is expected to decline rapidly over the next few weeks."

So far, Levis observed, "Back-to-School activity appears to be on target." But, she added, "It's impact will be easier to assess next month. People are postponing their purchases closer to the time of actual need. Many kids want to see what other kids are wearing before purchasing clothing."

Levis said, "Sales of durables, firmer since the start of the month, were sustained mainly by demand for electronics goods, but traditional Back-to-School clothing categories underperformed. This was due in part to the persistence of unusually warm weather. Some apparel retailers are already starting to cut prices."

Measured on a regional basis, "sales growth was the strongest in the Midwest followed by the West and Northeast," Levis noted.

Redbook Retail Sales Average
Third week of August

Week Ended 8/10 8/17 8/24 8/31 Month Target
*Including chain stores and traditional department stores.
Source: Redbook Retail Sales Average, a unit of Instinet, a Reuters company.
Department Stores* -4.5 -5.2 -5.1 -4.9 -3.4
Discounters 4.4 3.1 3.4 3.6 4.6
Redbook Average 0.8 -0.2 -0.0 0.2 1.5


Consumer Buying Plans — August
plans to purchase over the next six months

Source: The Conference Board
Homes +10.5%
Carpets -3.6%
New Car +21.2%
Used Car -42.1%
U.S. vacation -9.3%
Foreign vacation +24.3%


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