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Retail sales above target in August

New York — Even though August ended with a sluggish week, the month finished ahead of plan in the Redbook Retail Sales Average, thanks to the continuing Back-to-School season.

"Merchants said the slowdown was broad based, although some reports indicated that the Northeast was stronger than other areas," said Catlin Levis, Redbook analyst.

The average for the fourth and final week was 2.6 percent, a slight downturn from the previous week's 2.9 percent. Nonetheless, the monthly average finished at 2.7 percent, well above the target of 2.2 percent.

Discounters again outpaced department stores, 4.1 percent vs. 0.4 percent. However, department stores actually climbed out of the negative percentages for the first time this month, while discounters declined slightly from the previous week.

According to Levis, "Merchandise trends over the past week continued with themes set earlier this month, reflecting Back-to-School demand, focused on children's wear and stationery. Sales of electronics, such as DVD players, software, televisions and digital cameras, also did well."

Levis said the slowdown may continue until the holiday season kicks in, as Back-to-School winds down and as wary consumers choose to save their tax relief checks rather than spend them.

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