Redbook average off pace in March

Weakening steadily throughout the month and hampered by a disappointing Easter season, same-store retail sales closed out March on a muted note, up just 3.3 percent, well off the sturdy 4.7 percent increase put up in the opening days of the month.

Up against the prior month, the Redbook Retail Sales Average declined by 1.4 percent from February, missing a modest targeted gain of 0.4 percent. On a year-over-year basis, the sales average for March rose by 4.6 percent, shy of a targeted gain of 5.6 percent.

"The final week's sales were softer than expected and exerted a modest downward influence on the monthly running average," said Redbook analyst Catlin Levis. "The more prominent factor, however, may have been the failure of the Easter week itself to reach the levels retailers had hoped, and planned, for. Some retailers said the slowdown was due to reduced traffic rather than smaller-than-average purchases."

Levis noted, "Overall, our model's performance for March was below the month's opening target." Indeed, March figures were expected to come in relatively strong given the shift in the calendar and the early Easter holiday this year. Correspondingly, April sales are expected to be stunted somewhat by the absence of Easter sales this year. "Our preliminary target for April is year-over-year same-store growth of 1.0 percent," said Levis. "This would represent a month-to-month change vs. March of 0.8 percent."

Redbook Retail Sales Average
Fifth week of March

Week ended 3/9 3/16 3/23 3/30 4/6 Month Target
*Including chain stores and traditional department stores.
Source: Redbook Retail Sales Average, a unit of Instinet, a Reuters company.
Department Stores* 0.9 -0.1 -0.7 -1.2 -2.2 -0.7 0.9
Discounters 7.3 9.8 8.8 7.0 6.9 8.2 8.7
Redbook Average 4.7 5.9 5.1 3.7 3.3 4.6 5.6

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