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Retail sales come close to targets

Same-store retail sales held steady during the final week of January, advancing by 3.9 percent as retailers sold their stockpiles of winter apparel at markdown prices in advance of the spring season, the Redbook Average reported.

With retailers holding on to their gains in the post-holiday sales rush, sales for the entire month came close to hitting their target, moving up by 3.8 percent, compared with a targeted gain of 3.9 percent, the Redbook reported.

Mass-merchant sales recorded a 4.9 percent increase during the closing week of January, slightly ahead of the prior week, and marking their strongest performance during the month. Sales in department stores rose 2.3 percent, modestly lagging the 2.4 percent increase the week before.

For the entire month, mass-merchant sales were on target, rising by 4.7 percent. Department stores missed the mark with a 2.2 percent increase falling short of a desired 2.5 percent.

"Retailers in the Redbook sample closed the month slightly below plan," said Redbook analyst Catlin Levis. "In general, clearance-driven apparel sales continued at department stores, with the New York State tax amnesty considered a contributing factor for stores with New York exposure. Some merchants claimed the Super Bowl weekend drove sales of flat screen TVs, snack food, beverages and other related merchandise."

Acting as a drag, she observed, "Winter storms made roads hazardous across the U.S. Midwest and East Coast during the week, which prevented people from going out."

Going forward, February, she noted, is a four-week month ending on the 28, and is the start of the fiscal year for most retailers. Levis said the month is characterized by, "The arrival of spring merchandise in stores and promotional programs for Valentine's Day on the 14th."

The analyst said her preliminary target for February is for year-over-year same-store sales growth of 3.8 percent. That would mark a modest 0.3 percent month-over-month decline from January.

Redbook Retail Sales Average
Third week of January

Week ended 1/10 1/17 1/24 1/31 Month Target
*Including chain stores and traditional department stores.
Source: Redbook Research Inc.
Department stores* 2.3 1.8 2.4 2.3 2.2 2.5
Discounters 4.6 4.3 4.8 4.9 4.7 4.7
Redbook Average 3.8 3.4 3.9 3.9 3.8 3.9

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