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Comp Sales Finish Firm

Same-store retail sales growth tapered off slightly during the fourth and final week of February, rising by 2.9%, just behind the 3.0% growth put up the week before, the Johnson Redbook Index reported.

But even with that modest slippage during the closing week, sales for the entire month came in slightly ahead of plan, rising by 2.8% and besting a targeted increase of 2.7%.

Sales growth at department stores cooled off somewhat during the final week, rising by 2.8%, but lagging their 3.0% growth the preceding week. Mass merchant sales rose by 2.9% during the week, matching their growth of the week before.

Gauging all four weeks, February was another strong month for department stores, which, until the back half of last year, historically lagged far behind discounters in monthly same-store sales gains. Department stores recorded a 2.8% gain in comps for the entire month, on target, and matched the 2.8% increase recorded at the nation's mass merchants. Still, discounters came in modestly ahead of plan, beating a target of 2.7% growth.

"Our model ended the month slightly above plan as a whole," said Redbook analyst Catlin Levis. "Demand was broad based, with early business in spring apparel and other seasonal categories, primarily in the warmer parts of the country."

The Redbook analyst said, "Business in consumer goods maintained the strength supported by activity in food and consumer basics." Even though finishing modestly ahead of plan, Levis said, "The month's importance remains circumscribed since it contributes a relatively small portion of annual sales."

Looking forward, said Levis, March is a five-week month on the National Retail Federation calendar, ending April 7. "Our preliminary target for the Johnson Redbook Index is 3.2% year-over-year, which could result in a flat reading against February."

Johnson Redbook Index
Fourth week of February, year-over-year % change

Week ended 2/10 2/17 2/24 3/03 Month Target
*Including chain stores and traditional department stores
Source: Johnson Redbook Index
Department stores* 2.5 2.8 3.0 2.8 2.8 2.8
Discounters 2.5 2.9 2.9 2.9 2.8 2.7
Redbook Average 2.5 2.9 3.0 2.9 2.8 2.7


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