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Same-stores fall again in second week

Antsy about the likelihood of war and an increasingly clouded employment outlook, consumers still weren't biting during the second week of March, and same-store retail sales dipped for a second straight week, falling by 1.3 percent with the slide gaining momentum after a smaller 0.7 percent drop the preceding week.

For the two weeks month-to-date, the weekly Redbook Retail Sales Average — which tracks sales of retailers representing about 9,000 stores nationwide — was down by 1.0 percent from year-ago levels, weaker than a targeted slide of 0.5 percent.

Department stores, predictably, were weak, with sales falling off by 5.2 percent following a 3.6 percent decline the prior week. But discounters managed to hold their own, with sales advancing modestly, by 1.2 percent.

"Sales continued to lose momentum during the second week of March, primarily the result of the department stores in our model slipping further behind plan on a month-to-date basis," said Redbook analyst Catlin Levis. "There were reports that spring seasonal business had begun slowly due to warm weather throughout many parts of the country."

Levis noted, "Discount stores, with their more diverse product lines, saw firm business in consumer basics as well as in certain hard lines, including high-markup gardening equipment and supplies, small appliances and housewares."

Most stores, said Levis, "are maintaining their original targets for March, helped by the fact that the period contains five weeks on the retail calendar instead of the usual four, providing a wider margin of error to make up for early weakness. Additionally, many retailers planned for the back-loaded month, with seasonal business expected to improve in the second half due to gradually warming temperatures."

On a regional basis, the Northeast and Midwest posted the strongest sales results.

Redbook Retail Sales Average
Second 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 -4.1 -3.1
Discounters 1.1 1.2 1.2 1.2
Redbook Average -0.7 -1.3 -1.0 -0.5

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