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Hurricane Parade Dampens Sales

Hobbled by hurricanes in the Southeast and weakening sales at department stores as consumers shunned non-essentials and stocked up on basics at discounters, same-store retail sales slowed during the third week of September, rising 2.6 percent, following a 3 percent gain the preceding week, the Johnson Redbook Index reported.

Pressuring the index was a slowdown at full-price department stores, where sales edged ahead 0.8 percent, following a 1.8 percent increase the prior week. Discounter sales held steady with a 3.8 percent gain, little changed from a 3.9 percent increase the week before.

“Discount stores remained essentially on plan, while department stores were decidedly softer,” said Redbook Analyst Catlin Levis. “This is in itself revealing of trends, since sales performance at the discounters was sustained largely by nonseasonal hard lines, especially electronics and basic consumables, which are typically tied to the payroll cycle.”

Levis said Hurricanes received their share of the blame, disrupting sales in the Southeast. “They kept shoppers away from nonessential venues or forced stores to close, and in some cases actually damaged stores, although the extent of the damage for major retailers that comprise our model appears to be limited.”

Several retailers hurt by hurricanes the preceding week “did not bounce back as predicted, and failed to regain the momentum of the last few weeks of August,” the analyst added. “Department stores were the hardest hit collectively. Weekly sales-leader lists have been inconsistent, and business drivers have been viable, and we would rate the season at this point as somewhat lackluster.”

Johnson Redbook Retail Sales Index
Third week of September

WEEK ENDED 9/4 9/11 9/18 9/25 MONTH TARGET
*Including chain stores and traditional department stores.
Source: Johnson Redbook Index
Department stores* 1.5 1.8 0.8 1.4 1.2
Discounters 3.8 3.9 3.8 3.8 3.8
Redbook Index 2.9 3.0 2.6 2.8 2.8

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