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Retail sales heat up with cool weather

With cooler weather around much of the nation spurring demand for winter clothing and other seasonal merchandise, retail sales continued to pick up momentum moving into October, with same-store sales climbing by 1.4 percent during the second week of the month, improving on a 0.4 percent gain recorded the week before.

Given the seasonal jump, sales were running comfortably ahead of plan for both discounters and department stores, the Redbook Retail Sales Average reported.

Sales of home-related goods remained strong, as they have for several months, the retail barometer noted.

Gaining traction after a retail recovery begun the prior week, sales continued to build, said Redbook analyst Catlin Levis, with seasonal shopping the driver. "Cooler weather and perhaps some catching up by consumers who had delayed fall shopping earlier in the season strengthened the sales growth. As a rule, the cooler the region, the better the business. By the end of the week, most stores were on or close to plan, some comfortably ahead."

Many retailers also got a lift from the calendar, noted Levis. "Companies using the National Retail Federation calendar also benefited by comparing the Columbus Day week with a non-holiday week last year."

On the other hand, said Levis, recent sniper attacks have hampered sales in the Baltimore-Washington area. Stores there, said the analyst, "have been negatively impacted, particularly in Halloween products sales, on concerns about the area sniper, which kept shoppers away from stores."

Taking a look at merchandise categories, Levis said apparel, home furnishings, electronics and consumables generally led business at discount stores. Children's and women's apparel appeared to be the sales leaders at lower-priced department stores.

Breaking out results on a regional basis, the dollars followed the thermometer, and "sales were strongest in the Northeast followed by the Midwest," said Levis.

Redbook Retail Sales Average
Second week of October

Week ended 10/12 10/19 10/26 11/2 Month Target
*Including chain stores and traditional department stores.
Source: Redbook Retail Sales Average, a unit of Instinet, a Reuters company.
Department stores* -3.6 -1.4 -2.5 -3.9
Discounters 3.0 3.3 3.1 2.6
Redbook Average 0.4 1.4 0.9 0.1


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