May Comps Start Strong

Retailers tapped pent-up demand as mild weather at last opened the door to seasonal sales, sending first-week comparative store sales up 2.0%, the Johnson Redbook reported.

That rate was well ahead of the goal of 1.7% for May, a four-week retail month that ends on May 31. The month-over-month comp gain of 2.1% over April was also ahead of the 1.9% goal.

Both department stores and discounters – who had missed their April comp targets by 0.1 and 0.2 percentage points respectively – found reason to be pleased with the May start.

"Stores reported an uptick in sales of seasonal goods as warmer temperatures moved in parts of the country and tax rebate promotions drove business in many formats from apparel to outdoor merchandise," said Redbook analyst Catlin Levis. "Trade in Mother's Day items such as flowers, small appliances, cosmetics, accessories and jewelry, while brisk, did not necessarily boost the annual grow rate since the event occurred at the same time last year. Memorial Day, which falls in the final week of May, is similarly anniversaried."

"Meanwhile," Levis concluded, "discounters reported steady business in the food division."

Johnson Redbook Index
First week of May, year-over-year % change

Week ended 5/10 5/17 5/24 5/31 Month Target
*Including chain stores and traditional department stores
Source: Johnson Redbook Index
Department stores* 1.0 1.0 0.7
Discounters 2.6 2.6 2.4
Redbook Average 2.0 2.0 1.7

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