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Discounters dragging down March comps

New York– Unexpected weakness at the nation's mass merchants offset strength at department stores, but overall same-store retail sales rose by 4.0% during the second week of March. Nonetheless, the month-to-date mark of 3.7% came in beneath the target of 4.4%, the Johnson Redbook Index reported.

Gaining strength moving into the month, department store comps jumped 5.5%, improving on a 4.3% gain the prior week. So far during March, department store sales have risen by an on-target 4.9%.

No such luck at the nation's big discounters, where erratic weather may have stymied sales, said Redbook analyst Catlin Levis. Same-store sales improved by 3.1% following a 2.8% gain the prior week, reaching just 2.9% month-to-date.

“Retailers said sales were propelled by warm weather in the West and Midwest , helping to lift regional lawn and garden sales as well as both apparel and sporting goods, while Northeast sales were dampened by a late-week storm,” said Levis .

“Sales levels are expected to rise steadily into the Easter weekend at the end of the fifth week,” she added. “Many retailers planned for a back-loaded month, with seasonal business expected to improve in the second half due to gradually warming temperatures and the early Easter holiday, usually a catalyst for spring sales.”