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Ending with a bang, retail sales just miss goal

Same-store retail sales cooled once past the holidays, but were still sturdy enough to provide a better than expected finish to the month. Sales advanced by 3.4 percent following an even bigger gain of 3.9 percent the week before, the Redbook Average reported.

For the five-week holiday month, same-store sales increased by 3.3 percent, modestly behind a targeted goal of a 3.6 percent gain.

"In general, results of the season as a whole were better than last year, although they fell short of target, but not by as much as the first three weeks of December appeared to threaten," said Redbook analyst Catlin Levis. "Traffic counts remained relatively high as consumers were drawn into stores to exchange, return gifts, redeem gift-cards and hunt for bargains."

Levis added, "The post-Christmas period was promotional and price-driven." But with retailers keeping inventories under tighter control, consumers who waited too long were often unable to find what they were looking for. Frustrated by the lack of availability, she said, many "decided to hold on to their gift cards for future use."

Most retailers Levis said, "reported strength across a broad range, including consumer basics, electronics and cashmere sweaters."

Looking ahead to the new year, Levis noted that January will close out the fiscal year for most retailers. "The month is transitional and promotional with relatively low volume. Merchants in January typically focus on clearing holiday land winter goods in order to make room for spring goods."

Redbook Retail Sales Average
Fifth week of December

Week ended 12/06 12/13 12/20 12/27 1/03 Month Target
*Including chain stores and traditional department stores.
Source: Redbook Research Inc.
Department Stores* 1.1 0.6 0.5 1.7 0.9 1.0 1.7
Discounters 5.0 4.9 4.8 5.7 5.5 5.2 5.4
Redbook Average 3.2 3.0 2.9 3.9 3.3 3.3 3.8


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