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Margins Tight as Comps Steady

Same-store sales strengthened to a 1.6% gain in the fourth week of December, regaining the month's first-week pace after a dip to 1.3% and 1.2% in the intervening weeks, the Johnson Redbook reported.

Month to date, December (a five-week retail month ending Saturday, Jan. 5) was tracking up 1.4%, ahead of the goal of a 1.2% gain. Month-over-month was 0.7% below November, compared to a targeted 0.8% drop.

"The Christmas week was above target for most," said Redbook analyst Catlin Levis. "Retailers said most the week's business was done on the 24th and 26th, the days immediately before and after Christmas. Shoppers and tourists flocked to stores for last-minute shopping to take advantage of deep discounts. Post-Christmas business was also driven by price promotions as consumers were drawn into stores to exchange, return gifts, redeem gift cards and hunt for bargains on winter apparel for themselves."

Levis noted, "Weather reinforced the pattern as temperatures fell sharply. Cold weather merchandise, which had been slow all month, began to move faster. Some retailers noted continuing margin pressure in the already challenging fourth quarter."

Johnson Redbook Index
Fourth week of Decmber, year-over-year % change

Week ended 12/8 12/15 12/22 12/29 1/5 Month Target
*Including chain stores and traditional department stores
Source: Johnson Redbook Indext
Department stores* -0.9 -1.4 -0.7 -0.4 -0.8 -1.5
Discounters 3.4 3.3 2.5 3.0 3.1 3.3
Redbook Index 1.6 1.3 1.2 1.6 1.4 1.2


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