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February retail sales fall short

NEW YORK -Retail sales inched slightly ahead in February, but way beneath plan, the Redbook Average reported, as antsy consumers pinched their pennies in a sputtering U.S. economy marked by widespread layoffs.

Hit hard by slumping sales at the nation's big department stores and chains, retail sales inched up a skimpy 2.1 for the month, well behind a target of 2.9 percent growth, the Redbook reported.

Predictably, in a soft economy, sales at the nation's discounters remained relatively firm, if still behind plan, while broadline retailers-department stores and chains-watched their sales erode by 0.3 percent vs. a modest targeted increase of 0.4 percent.

"Sales were again below plan in the final week," said Redbook analyst John Pitt. "The softness ensured that there was no upward momentum to the running month-to-date averages in the closing days of February, and the month closed substantially behind its original target. Retailers said the softness that became evident at the end of the previous week had continued into the final week. This was the outcome not of any identifiable or significant downside factors, but simply slower traffic in stores and general consumer caution."

Pitt added, "Shoppers focused on staples and household items, and generally avoided big-ticket and discretionary purchases. Over February as a whole, our model performed to target only in the second week, helped by Valentine's Day. Both discount stores and broadline stores fell short of their monthly targets, although discount stores held up better, consistent with a retail environment that may favor basic merchandise and moderate pricing."

February retail sales / Redbook Retail Sales Average


Week ended Feb. 10 Feb. 17 Feb. 24 Mar. 3 Month Target

Broadline*

-0.0

0.4

-0.7

-0.8

-0.3

0.4

Discounters

3.0

4.0

2.9

2.9

3.2

4.1

Redbook Average

2.0

2.8

1.8

1.7

2.1

2.9


*Broadline retailers, including department stores and chains.

Source: Redbook Retail sales Average, a unit of Instinet, a Reuters company.

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