January Comp Sales Ahead of Plan

New York — Helped by warmer weather and steep post-holiday markdowns, same-store retail sales jumped up by 4.1% over year-ago levels during the fourth and closing week of January, putting sales for the entire month solidly ahead of plan, the Johnson Redbook Index reported.

The big 11th-hour boost built on a 3.6% gain recorded the week before. For all of January, sales perked up by 3.5%, besting a target of 3.1% growth.

Measured on a month-over-month basis, sales slipped 0.2% beneath December levels, better than an expected 0.6% decline.

“Retailers in our model closed the month and, for most, the fiscal year, on a firm note, with results in the final week generally on or better than plan” said Redbook analyst Catlin Levis. “The final week was assisted by unseasonably warm weather, stepped-up markdowns for seasonal apparel and gift-card redemptions.”

Business was notably strong at department stores, where same-store sales improved by 2.4%, improving on a 2.0% gain the prior week. Department stores finished the entire month up 2.0%, coming in ahead of a target of 1.6%. “Department stores saw strong turnover with early stocked merchandise in spring apparel and other seasonal goods, especially in the Northeast region,” said Levis.

Drawing in cost-conscious consumers looking for everyday items, discounters reported a big 5.1% spike in same-store sales during the week, building on a 4.6% increase put up the week before.

For the entire month, discounter comps climbed higher by 4.4%, beating a targeted gain of 4.0%. “Discount stores, which are less dependent on markdown cycles than department stores, have shown steadier results over the course of the month due to their regular business in consumer staples.”

Going forward, February is a four-week month on the retail calendar, and the start of the new fiscal year for most retailers. The month contains two major sales events, Valentine's Day and President's Day. Levis said the Redbook preliminary target for February is for year-over-year same-store sales growth of 3.2%, or 0.3% ahead of January.

Johnson Redbook Index
Third week of January, year over year % change

Week ended 1/7 1/14 1/21 1/28 Month Target
*Including chain stores and traditional department stores.
Source: Johnson Redbook Index
Department stores* 1.7 1.8 2.0 2.4 2.0 1.6
Discounters 4.1 3.8 4.6 5.1 4.4 4.0
Redbook Average 3.2 3.1 3.6 4.1 3.5 3.1

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