March Retail Sales Pick Up the Pace

Picking up steam after a somewhat muted start to the month, same-store sales climbed by 2.7% during the second week of March, gaining on a 2.4% increase the prior week, the Johnson Redbook Index reported.

Sales at the nation's mass merchants rose by 3.1%, improving on a 2.9% gain the preceding week. For the two weeks month-to-date, discounter sales are on target with a 3.0% gain

Department store sales also improved on the prior week, advancing by 2.0%, compared with a 1.7% rise to start the month. But even with last week's bump, month-to-date department store sales were still slightly behind their target, rising by 1.9% and missing a goal of 2.0%.

“Sales were mixed to modestly firmer in the second week, but remained slightly below plan month to date,” said Redbook analyst Catlin Levis. “During the week itself, sales were somewhat volatile day-to-day, largely the result of weather swings affecting customer traffic counts in different regions.”

She added, “Discount stores, with their more diverse lines, saw firm business in consumer basics such as food and household supplies as well as certain hard lines, including gardening equipment and supplies.”

An unfavorable comparison to last year's numbers is not unexpected by retailers because Easter falls three weeks later this year than last, pushing holiday sales into April.

Johnson Redbook Index
Second week of March (year-over-year % change)

week ended 3/4 3/11 3/18 3/25 4/1 month target
*Including chain stores and traditional department stores
Source: Johnson Redbook Index
Department stores* 1.7 2.0 1.9 2.0
Discounters 2.9 3.1 3.0 3.0
Redbook Average 2.4 2.7 2.5 2.6

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