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August sales continue July's rebound

Same-store retail sales, continuing a rebound begun in July, improved by 3.1 percent during the first week of August, slightly ahead of plan, helped by seasonal Back-to-School business, sales-tax holidays in several states and tax-rebate promotions staged by several national retailers, the Redbook Retail Sales Average reported.

Still building on July's gains, the first week of August marked an improvement over a sturdy 2.6 percent increase recorded the week before by the bellwether gauge of retailing activity. The 3.1 percent gain modestly exceeded a target of 3.0 percent, with both discounters and department stores in positive territory and running ahead of plan.

"The better than expected sales that had marked July continued into the new month as shoppers focused on summer clearance sales and are beginning to look at freshly shelved Back-to-School merchandise," said Redbook analyst Catlin Levis.

Levis added, "Back-to-School sales have not yet had a significant impact, but are expected to as the month progresses. As a growing trend, consumers are delaying purchases as long as possible and waiting for clearance sales."

August, said Levis, like July, "is somewhat transitional, characterized by final summer clearances and a shift in inventory to Back-to-School merchandise and fall apparel."

During the first week of August, activity was sustained by toys, swimwear, shoes, health and beauty aids, consumer basics and food.

Giving retailers a much-needed lift, the government started mailing $400-per-child tax credit checks to 25 million taxpayers. Retailers are promoting heavily to attract bargain-hungry shoppers to spend their rebates in their stores.

Levis said sales were strongest in the Northeast, followed by the Midwest.

Redbook Retail Sales Average
First week of July

Week ended 8/9 8/16 8/23 8/30 Month Target
*Including chain stores and traditional department stores.
Source: Redbook Retail Sales Average, a unit of Instinet, a Reuters company.
Department stores* 1.2 1.2 1.0
Discounters 4.3 4.3 4.2
Redbook Average 3.1 3.1 3.0


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