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Same-store falters in third week

Same-store retail sales weakened substantially during the third week of July, posting a skimpy 0.9 percent over last year's levels, compared with a big 2.6 percent jump the prior week and a 1.5 percent gain during the first week of the month.

Sales at department stores continued their long slide, falling by 3.8 percent from year-ago levels during the week, according to the Redbook Retail Sales Average. Discounter sales climbed by 3.6 percent, well off a stronger showing earlier in the month, including a 5.3 percent increase during the prior week.

For the three weeks month-to-date, department store sales dropped off by 3.0 percent, modestly behind a targeted decline of 2.9 percent. Discounter sales lagged behind plan as well, rising by 1.7 percent, well shy of a 2.4 percent target.

"Sales were below plan overall in the third week," said Redbook analyst Catlin Levis. "The department store sector continued to be the weakest as the slump in apparel sales persisted."

Some merchants, said Levis, "attributed the rather lackluster pace of sales to a tough comparison with the equivalent year-ago period, when sales were driven by income tax rebate checks. Others said inventories were leaner than usual, and clearance prices were less aggressive."

Looking forward to the start of a new selling season, Levis said, "Meanwhile, Back-to-School items have been arriving in stores in recent weeks and children's apparel categories have moved higher on some retailers' weekly sales leader lists. Demand for this merchandise, however, is not expected to replace summer seasonal business until August."

Breaking out the business, Levis said, "core consumer goods such as food and household supplies continued to drive sales at discount stores."

Redbook Retail Sales Average
Third week of June

Week ended 7/13 7/20 7/27 8/3 Month Target
*Including chain stores and traditional department stores.
Source: Redbook Retail Sales Average, a unit of Instinet, a Reuters company.
Department Stores -3.3 -1.9 -3.8 -3.0 -2.9
Discounters 4.4 5.3 3.6 4.4 5.6
Redbook Average 1.5 2.6 0.9 1.7 2.4


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