Cold weather draws shoppers to stores, Redbook reports

New York — With cold weather settling in across much of the United States, chilled out consumers flocked to the malls to buy winter clothing, pushing same-store retail sales up by 4.1 percent, easily beating a target of a 3.7 percent increase, the Redbook retail sales Average reported.

Getting a lift from more normalized weather patterns, same-store sales recovered from the sluggish sales that characterized the past few weeks, when uncharacteristically warm weather blunted sales of seasonal apparel.

Both discounters and department stores easily beat their targets for the first week of November. Department stores, still on a recovery roll, advanced by 2.0 percent, besting a target of 1.8 percent growth. Discounters climbed by 5.6 percent vs. a sales target of 5.1 percent.

Measured on a month-over-month basis, sales were down by 2.9 percent from October levels, a smaller decline than the 3.2 percent drop that had been forecast.

"The overall gain was ahead of expectations for the month, with the majority of retailers in our sample meeting or exceeding plan," said Redbook analyst Catlin Levis. "An increase in customer traffic in the week helped to spur gains across the board. Business improved as the week progressed."

The weather got most of the credit, "and most merchants saw improved business in seasonal apparel and other weather-driven items such as outerwear and sporting goods," said Levis. "The higher traffic levels helped to create demand for other merchandise, including consumables, toys, electronics and home-related durable goods at department stores."

Levis added, "Many retailers expect improvement in the upcoming holiday shopping season and are hiring more sales staff than last year.

Breaking out results on a regional basis, the analyst said, "Several retailers said sales were strongest in the Midwest followed by the West, while the Northeast under-performed the rest of the country."

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