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Discounters continue assault on market share 

Week ended 9/6 9/13 9/20 9/27 10/4 Month Target
*Including chain stores and traditional department stores
Source: Johnson Redbook Index
Department stores* -5.4     -5.4 -6.0
Discounters 6.4       6.4 6.6
Redbook Index 1.8     1.8 1.7




New York – The fortunes of mass and “class” retailers continue to diverge, as discounters scored a 6.4% comp rise in the first week of September while department store chains foundered on a 5.4% comp decline, the Johnson Redbook reported today.

The upstairs-downstairs disparity has been evident for most of 2008 – indeed, for most of the last three years – but the trend has accelerated since the spring. And the comparisons are roughly equivalent; for example, department stores posted a 1.4% comp gain in September 2007, while discounters scored a 2.3% gain.

The split for the full July 2008 retail month was a comp gain of 5.3% for mass merchants vs. a comp falloff of 1.1% for upstairs chains, a difference of 6.4 percentage points.

The split for August was a comp gain of 5.0% for discounters vs. a comp drop of 3.7% for department stores, a gap of 8.7 points.

The first-week gulf in September is 11.8 points.

One result is that the back-to-school retail season has nearly come and gone, taking margin dollars along with it. “Back-to-school business appeared to be concentrated at lower price points. Discount stores reported strength in traditional back-to-school categories such as children's clothing and school supplies, however, results at department stores were disappointing,” said Redbook analyst Catlin Levis.

“For the latest week,” Levis said, “which included the Labor Day long weekend, both Sunday and Monday turned out to be busy shopping days despite hurricanes putting a damper on Gulf business as well as along the East coast as this year's back-to-school season reached its peak.”

She concluded, “Thereafter, business tailed off sharply for rest of the week. Retailers noted that Labor Day business had little effect on annual growth rates since last year’s holiday fell on a comparable calendar day.”

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