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Calendar unkind to sales

Same-store retail sales lost some steam during the third week of May, hurt by flooding in some regions and up against a shift in the calendar, which pushes Memorial Day sales back a week, according to the Johnson Redbook Index.

The index recorded a comparable-store increase of 4.1 percent for the week, cooling off somewhat after stronger gains of 4.7 percent and 4.8 percent respectively during the first two weeks of May.

For the three weeks month-to-date, sales have risen 4.5 percent, just shy of a targeted gain of 4.6 percent.

In a surprising reversal of the usual pattern, department stores are beating plan so far during May, helped by strong sales of full-price seasonal apparel, while mass merchants are missing their target. Department store sales are up 2.6 percent, besting a target of 2.3 percent; and mass merchants are up 5.8 percent, beneath a plan of 6.1 percent growth.

"Two themes worked against retailers during the week," said Redbook Analyst Catlin Levis. "Severe storms and floods in the Midwest region suppressed volume in seasonal business. The other factor was unfair competition with last year's pre-Memorial Day sales, which fell a week earlier in the calendar last year." But the comparison, she noted, should even out during the fourth week of May, giving sales an extra kick that week.

Levis noted, "Meanwhile, apparel and accessories maintained their positions as merchandise leaders in department stores. The sector continues to track ahead of plan month-to-date, and most merchants remain pleased with seasonal business, as customers are paying full price for colorful spring and summer apparel, as well as suits and dresses."

Johnson Redbook Retail Sales Index
Third week of May

Week ended 5/8 5/15 5/22 5/29 Month Target
*Including chain stores and traditional department stores.
Source: Johnson Redbook Index
Department stores* 2.5 2.9 2.5 2.6 2.3
Discounters 6.1 6.0 5.2 5.8 6.1
Redbook Average 4.7 4.8 4.1 4.5 4.6


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