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January same-store sales quicken

New York -- Getting a lift from a cold weather snap that spurred sales of seasonal merchandise, same-store retail sales picked up steam during the third week of January, rising by 2.8% and gaining on a 2.5% increase the week before, the Johnson Redbook Index reported.

Hewing to recent form, department stores beat out discounters once again, but just barely, with a 2.9% increase vs. a 2.8% gain at mass merchants.

For the three weeks month-to-date, sales rose by 2.7%, slightly shy of a targeted increase of 2.8%.

Redbook analyst Catlin Levis said, "Apparel and other seasonal soft lines ranked high on volume leader lists as retailers sold where they were discounting. Meanwhile, many retailers are already moving in Valentine's Day and spring merchandise ahead of schedule."

"The Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend and widespread wintry weather had a mixed effect by encouraging shoppers to purchase winter merchandise, yet keeping people at home and adversely impacting customer traffic," said Levis. "Since most winter inventory is on clearance, this type of business did not necessarily feed through into higher margins, but it did momentarily improve sales performance."

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