Retail sales soften in September

With consumers made skittish by a falling stock market and a weak economy, retail sales continued to soften moving through September. They edged up a skimpy 0.6 percent during the third week of the month, losing steam after a stronger 2.0 percent increase the week before and 2.2 percent growth at the beginning of the month.

For the three weeks month-to-date, same-store sales are 1.6 percent above last year's level, somewhat behind a target of 2.0 percent growth, according to the Redbook Retail Sales Average, which tracks same-store sales growth at chains representing about 9,000 stores. Sales for the three weeks are unchanged from August levels, compared to a targeted gain of 0.4 percent. Sales tracked by Redbook represent more than 80 percent of the retail sales series collected and published by the U.S. Department of Commerce for its monthly report of U.S. retail sales.

"At this point in the month, sales growth seems to slacken week by week," said Redbook analyst Catlin Levis. "It was the softest week of the month so far, and at the lower end or below plan for most retailers."

Having a dampening effect, said Levis, "Back-to-School business is winding down in all Back-to-School categories. Discounters have also shown a declining trajectory lately."

Levis said, "Retailers attributed the recent weakness to a sluggish economic recovery and a negative wealth effect due to a weak stock market that left consumers cautious about spending. Unseasonably warm weather once again received its share of the blame, and several retailers suggested the drop in temperatures this week may provide the impetus they seek."

Leading merchandise categories, said Levis, "included home furnishings, appliances, health and beauty aids and electronics, which were helped by the release of the movie 'Monsters Inc.' on DVD and video."

Breaking sales out on a regional basis, "growth was strongest in the Midwest and West followed by the Northeast," said the Redbook analyst.

Redbook Retail Sales Average
Third week of September

Week ended 9/7 9/14 9/21 9/28 10/5 Month Target
*Including chain stores and traditional department stores.
Source: Redbook Retail Sales Average, a unit of Instinet, a Reuters company.
Department Stores* -1.5 -1.6 -3.7 -2.3 -2.3
Discounters 4.7 4.3 3.4 4.1 4.7
Redbook Average 2.2 2.0 0.6 1.6 2.0

Home & Textiles Today Staff | News & Commentary

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