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Redbook avg. falls short of target

After making some headway during February, retail sales came in a little light and below plan during the first week of March, rising by 4.7 percent, but still falling short of a targeted gain of 5.6 percent.

Measured against last month's performance, the Redbook Average fell by 1.2 percent, far weaker than an expected decline of 0.4 percent.

While seasonal apparel categories had a mixed performance, home goods remained strong, said Redbook analyst Catlin Levis.

Discounters, predictably, beat department stores and chains by a wide margin. But even so, the first week of March marked something of an improvement for full-price department stores, which actually put up an increase in sales after a long succession of declines stretching back more than a year and a half. Department store same-store sales increased by 0.9 percent during the week, right on target. Discounters racked up a smaller-than-expected gain of 7.3 percent, compared with a target of an 8.7 percent increase.

"Sales were below plan in the first week of March with four weeks left to to run," said Levis. "Some retailers noted that the first week of March was the smallest week in expected sales volume, and therefore unrepresentative, making it too early to determine the trend of the month as a whole."

Levis said, "The aggressive sales growth target for March, based on retailers' plans, is 5.6 percent, well ahead of February's 3.3 percent. This relatively higher reading reflects the upward bias caused by the earlier placement of Easter this year, causing retailers to plan for an above-average March countered by a below-average April. Retailers suggest the two months should be averaged together for comparison purposes."

The analyst also noted: "Certain retailers also said that their businesses were hampered in the Midwest and Southern regions by cold and inclement weather, which reduced traffic and suppressed demand for spring goods. Seasonal apparel categories were noticeably less evident in sales leader lists than they have been recently. In the absence of a strong seasonal theme, top performing merchandise groups were mixed with the focus on home-related categories, consumer basics and consumer non-durables."

Redbook Retail Sales Average
First week of March

Week ended 3/9 3/16 3/23 3/30 4/6 Month Target
*Including chain stores and traditional department stores.
Source: Redbook Retail Sales Average, a unit of Instinet, a Reuters company.
Department Stores* 0.9 0.9 0.9
Discounters 7.3 7.3 8.7
Redbook Average 4.7 4.7 5.6


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