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May sales short despite strong finish

Same-store retail sales picked up during the fourth and final week of May, boosted by the Memorial Day holiday, but it still wasn't enough to offset weather-related weakness earlier during the month. And sales for all of May fell well short of expectations at both discounters and department stores.

Despite rainy weather that dampened sales of some seasonal merchandise, same-store sales picked up by 2.0 percent during the fourth week of May, improving on the 1.4 percent increase recorded the week before.

But for the entire month, sales rose at a somewhat slower pace of 1.8 percent above year-ago levels, falling short of a goal of a 2.4 percent increase, reported the Redbook Retail Sales Average, which tracks sales at retailers across the nation. May sales fell 0.4 percent beneath April levels, compared with a small targeted increase of 0.2 percent.

Sales in the closing week got a boost from Memorial Day traffic, said Redbook analyst Catlin Levis, but "sales for the week were not sufficient to lift the month's averages with recent trends remaining largely in place." Stores continued to complain about rainy weather throwing a wet blanket on sales of seasonal goods, not only hardlines but apparel as well. Apparel sold better in regions where temperatures were warm, such as the Southwest and the West Coast. In most parts of the country, however, the persistence of unseasonable weather over the past few weeks at the start of the spring selling season caused retailers to fall short of sales targets in May."

Levis said her preliminary targets for June same-store sales are a 2.6 percent increase over year-ago levels and a 1.1 percent increase over May. Retail June is a five-week month, ending July 1.

Redbook Retail Sales Average
Fourth week of May

Week ended 5/11 5/18 5/25 6/1 Month Target
*Including chain stores and traditional department stores.
Source: Redbook Retail Sales Average, a unit of Instinet, a Reuters company.
Department stores* -1.8 -2.1 -2.6 -1.8 -2.0 -1.5
Discounters 4.0 4.8 4.0 4.4 4.3 5.0
Redbook Average 1.7 2.1 1.4 2.0 1.8 2.4


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