Momentum keeps up the pace

For the week of Nov. 22, the Instinet Research Redbook Retail Sales Average rose 4.1 percent, beating the previous week's gain of 3.9 percent. However, the week was 2.9 percent below the October reading (the targeted decline was 3.2 percent).

The latter dropoff owed itself to November's lower year-ago dollar basis relative to October. As Redbook pointed out, this year's November is a four-week month as far as retail is concerned, with the sales period ending Nov. 29.

The week did see retail sales pick up some momentum, and the stores said the week ended better than it began. As one would expect for the pre-Thanksgiving shopping period, consumables (food, in particular) led the parade to the checkouts. But the retail business stayed competitive and promotional, with some big discounters offering steep markdowns on toys and electronics such as video games, DVDs, MP3 players and digital cameras. The hope appears to be that they'll build store traffic and lure shoppers to look also at higher-margin items.

Retailers continue to be optimistic about the holiday shopping season, but aren't going overboard on that optimism. However, it will be difficult for them and for industry analysts to project based on this year's November results since the weekend after Thanksgiving is no longer the heaviest holiday shopping period. That is now the weekend prior to Christmas.

Redbook Retail Sales Average
Fourth week of November

Week ended 11/8 11/15 11/22 11/29 Month Target
*Including chain stores and traditional department stores.
Source: Redbook Retail Sales Average, a unit of Instinet, a Reuters company.
Department stores* 2.0 1.7 1.9 1.9 1.8
Discounters 5.6 5.4 5.6 5.5 5.1
Redbook Average 4.1 3.9 4.1 4.0 3.7

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