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Early December same-store sales slow

New York -- Waiting for deeper discounts to come -- and digging out from snowstorms that shut down parts of the Midwest -- consumers stayed away from the malls during the first week of December, pushing same-store retail sales well beneath plan.

The Johnson Redbook Index reported a same-store gain of 2.4% for the week, lagging a target of 2.9%, with both department stores and discounters coming up short. Department stores continue to come on relatively strong, with comps up 3.8% during the week, but still missing a target of 4.5% growth. Discounters lagged far behind, with same-store sales up a modest 1.4%, falling short of targeted growth of 1.8%.

"Retailers described the week as a lull that began the weekend after what was for some a hectic post-Thanksgiving surge, but noted that the pause was typical of the first week of December, and would likely be followed by a steady buildup toward Christmas," said Redbook analyst Catlin Levis. "Moreover, sales were hurt by a Midwest snowstorm, which brought lighter foot traffic. Thousands of homes and businesses were without power following the first big Midwest snowstorm of the season."

On the plus side, "The month contains one additional pre-Christmas shopping day over last year, a positive impact for most retailers," said Levis. On the downside, she added, "Consumers have learned to defer holiday shopping until the last minute in order to exploit merchant markdowns."

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