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Same-stores end July on an uptick

Exceed target for first time since last November

With sales for most of the nation's big discounters running at or ahead of plan, and helped by a tax-free holiday in seven states, same-store retail sales for July perked up by 2.5 percent, easily beating a target of a 2.1 percent gain, the Redbook Retail Sales Average reported.

It was the first time since last November that same-store sales in the Redbook sample exceeded their target.

Driving the solid July increase — virtually twice the size of June's anemic 1.3 percent gain — was a 4.0 percent jump at the nation's discounters, substantially ahead of a targeted gain of 3.1 percent.

Department stores, improving on a long string of sales declines, managed a slight increase in July, up 0.1 percent, but missed their target of a 0.4 percent increase.

During the fourth and closing week of the month, same-store sales climbed higher by 2.6 percent, running ahead of a 2.2 percent gain during the preceding week. Discounters reported a 4.1 percent increase, coming in ahead of a 3.7 percent increase the week before. Department stores posted a modest gain of 0.2 percent in the final week, recovering from a 0.3 percent slide the week before.

"Overall, the month turned out better than expected," said Redbook analyst Catlin Levis. "Merchants reported tax-free holiday across seven states drew more store traffic than on a normal weekend."

Since July is a clearance month, said Levis, "retailers have promoted heavily to drive sales. Retailers claim competition to be even more intense than usual, possibly due to the $400 per-child tax credit checks heading to 25 million taxpayers."

The coming Back-to School season, now under way, Levis noted, "is considered the second most important sales season behind Christmas. Some major retailers introduced promotional campaigns including online lists for parents of required school supplies and 10 for $1 notebook sales."

Breaking out results on a regional basis, Levis said "the Northeast was said to be the most active business environment in the country."

Going forward, August is a four-week month on the retail calendar, and Levis said her preliminary target is for year-over-year growth of 2.6 percent which, if met, would generate a 0.2 percent gain over July.

Redbook Retail Sales Average
Fourth week of July

Week ended 7/12 7/19 7/26 8/2 Month Target
*Including chain stores and traditional department stores.
Source: Redbook Retail Sales Average, a unit of Instinet, a Reuters company.
Department stores* 0.4 0.1 -0.3 0.2 0.1 0.4
Discounters 4.2 4.0 3.7 4.1 4.0 3.1
Redbook Average 2.8 2.6 2.2 2.6 2.5 2.1


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