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'Class' Over 'Mass' in Early October Comps

As temperatures started to dip and the weather turned nippy across parts of the nation, consumers' thoughts turned to warmer seasonal apparel. This helped drive same-store retail sales up 3.4% during the first week of October, the Johnson Redbook Index reported.

But even with the assist from the weather, sales slightly lagged a target of 3.5% growth as the nation's mass merchants recorded sluggish sales, more than offsetting a strong performance at department stores. Helped by lower prices at the pump that put more disposable income in consumers' pockets, department stores substantially outperformed their discounter peers, driving sales up by 4.1% from year-ago levels, besting a goal of 3.8%. Discounters reported slower growth of 3.0%, well beneath a target of 3.4% growth.

Measured on a month-over-month basis, comps were up 1.3% from the first week of September, lagging a plan of 1.4% growth.

“Sales were mixed in the first week of October — on, to modestly below plan at most stores,” said Redbook analyst Catlin Levis. “Sales improved toward the weekend as temperatures fell to more fall-like levels in many parts of the country, triggering seasonal demand for apparel. Both discount and department store formats reported active business in cool weather apparel. Food and household basics continued their strength at discounters.”

Levis said, “Halloween sales were generally on track as stores displayed the merchandise sooner than usual. It is, however, still early in the selling season. October is the final month of the third quarter for most retailers, and it is an important period for retailers to meet quarterly sales and earnings targets.”

Johnson Redbook Index
First week of October, year-over-year % change

WEEK ENDED 10/7 10/14 10/21 10/28 MONTH TARGET
*Including chain stores and traditional department stores.
Source: Johnson Redbook Index
Department stores* 4.1 4.1 3.8
Discounters 3.0 3.0 3.4
Redbook Average 3.4 3.4 3.5


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