Comps Outpace September Targets

New York — Helped by cooler weather, lower gas prices and an easy comparison with year-ago results, same-store retail sales continued their strong upward march through September, climbing by 4.3% during the fourth week of the five-week month, considerably ahead of plan, the Johnson Redbook Index reported.

But the cheer didn't spread too far around, and striking a cautionary note, Redbook analyst Catlin Levis said results at a small handful of retailers skewed the entire reading higher. “Our sample continued ahead of plan in September because of mostly continued strength at a few key companies.”

Additionally, the analyst said, “Cooler weather, declining gasoline prices and easy comparisons due to the destruction and disruption caused by last year's hurricanes definitely had a positive effect.”

From a merchandise point of view, Levis said, “Seasonal apparel remains the focus at most stores. Retailers are generally satisfied with sell-throughs helped by favorable fashion trends and more fall-like weather.”

Getting a head-start on October's holiday event, “Some stores reported modest business in Halloween merchandise,” Levis reported. “Halloween falls on October 31, but retailers say shopping for the event for the most part has been starting earlier in years past and generating more sales volume.”

Scoping out results at the all-important mass merchant channel, Levis said, “Consumables and other basic groups generally led business at discount stores.” Sales at discounters jumped up by 4.4% during the week, building on gains of 3.8% and 4.1% in the two preceding weeks.

Helped by cooler weather which jump-started sales of seasonal apparel, department stores recorded strong sales leading into the fall season, up 4.2% during the week, improving on gains of 3.6% and 4.0% during the two prior weeks.

Johnson Redbook Index
Fourth week of September, year-over-year % change

Week ended 9/2 9/9 9/16 9/23 9/30 month target
*Including chain stores and traditional department stores
Source: Johnson Redbook Index
Department stores* 3.7 3.6 4.0 4.2 3.9 3.6
Discounters 3.9 3.8 4.1 4.4 4.1 3.4
Redbook Average 3.9 3.8 4.1 4.3 4.0 3.5

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