Redbook avg. has slow start in June

Don Hogsett, Staff Staff, June 15, 2001

NEW YORK — Up against a tough comparison with strong numbers last year, and hampered by that 'usual suspect,' the weather, same-store retail sales got off to a choppy start in June, partly held in check by continuing weakness at department stores and chains.

The Redbook Retail Sales Average, a gauge of same-store sales for retailers nationwide, edged up just 1.2 percent during the first week in June, compared to a strong year-ago gain of 3.4 percent.

Department stores and chains were the weak sisters of retailing, as they have been since last year, posting a sales decline of 2.3 percent, somewhat deeper than the targeted slide of 2.1 percent. During the same period last year, department stores sales were up by 1.1 percent.

Holding their own, discounters pushed their same-store sales ahead by 3.5 percent, but even they fell short of the target of 3.8 percent. Last year, sales among the big mass merchants climbed at the even faster pace of 4.5 percent.

"Retailers were up against last year's Memorial Day sales, making for difficult comparisons," said Redbook analyst Catlin Levis. "Companies said the pace of sales improved toward the end of the week as warmer weather led to an increased demand for seasonal merchandise."

Looking ahead, said Levis, "June is a critical month for most retailers, representing the peak of seasonal business ahead of traditional July clearance sales."

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