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Consumers Wait For Deals

New York — With bargain-conscious consumers still holding out for deeper discounts, and others snowed in by winter storms, same-store retail sales came in light and beneath plan for a second straight week at the start of the all-important Christmas shopping season, rising a modest 3.4 percent, the Johnson Redbook Index reported.

For the first two weeks of December, sales were up just 3.3 percent over year-before levels, falling short of a targeted gain of 3.8 percent. And December sales so far are actually slightly weaker than they were in November, down 0.3 percent, compared with a target of a 0.1 percent increase.

Catering to the cost-conscious, discounters easily outpaced their department store peers, driving sales up by 3.9 percent, compared with a smaller 2.8 percent gain at full-price department stores.

“Seasonal business remains below expectations,” said Redbook analyst Catlin Levis. “As a result, sales growth at discount stores continued to be strongest in basic consumables and food, rather than clothing. Customer traffic remained slow partly due to snowstorms in many parts of the country. However, the average transaction was ahead of last year.”

Complicating the sales picture, said Levis, this year's December is heavily back-loaded, with the Hanukkah holiday falling three weeks later this year than last year. Most retailers continue to maintain their official monthly targets despite the softness of the first two weeks. An early December lull was factored into most sales plans for the month, so retailers remained cautiously optimistic as they continued to sit out the pre-Christmas wait.”

Johnson Redbook Index
Second week of December

Week ended 12/3 12/10 12/17 12/24 12/31 Month Target
*Including chain stores and traditional department stores.
Source: Johnson Redbook Index
Department stores* 2.5 2.8 2.7 2.9
Discounters 3.9 3.9 3.9 4.4
Redbook Average 3.3 3.4 3.3 3.8


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