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Rocky retail road in Redbook Dec. report

Spurred by post-Christmas sales, same-store retail sales inched up by 0.2 percent during the fifth week of December. But it wasn't enough to pull out a sluggish Christmas season, and sales for all of December rose by just 1 percent from year-before levels, rising less than half as much as expected, an already anemic forecast gain of 2.1 percent, according to the Redbook Retail Sales Average.

By the time stores had shut the book on the weakest holiday season in decades, sales at both department stores and discounters alike came in sharply beneath plan, Redbook reported: department stores fell by 0.7 percent, against a forecast drop of 0.1 percent; and discounter sales rose by 2.4 percent, beneath a target of 3.8 percent.

The skimpy 0.2 percent gain that closed out the month followed a much stronger increase of 2.8 percent the prior week, ended Dec. 28, when consumers turned for last-minute holiday bargains.

As is often the case for the week following Christmas, the week was characterized by lower volumes and the beginning of clearance sales in anticipation of end-of-year stock-taking and book-closings," said Redbook analyst Catlin Levis. "Traffic counts remained relatively high as consumers were drawn to stores by post-Christmas markdowns. Retailers said the week, like the month, was more promotional than planned, suggesting continuing margin pressure in an already challenging fourth quarter."

Looking ahead to January, Levis said the Redbook target for the month is a year-over-year sales gain of 1.6 percent, generating a monthly change of 0.4 percent over December.

Redbook Retail Sales Average

Fifth week of December
*Including chain stores and traditional department stores.
Source: Redbook Retail Sales Average, a unit of Instinet, a Reuters company.
WEEK ENDED 12/7 12/14 12/21 12/28 1/4 MONTH TARGET
Department Stores* --0.7 -1.3 -1.7 3.0 -2.6 -0.7 -0.1
Discounters 2.6 2.5 1.9 2.6 2.4 2.4 3.8
Redbook Average 1.1 0.8 0.3 2.8 0.2 1.0 2.1


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