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A First: Three Neg-Comp Months in a Row

The Johnson Redbook Retail Sales Index fell 2.3% in January, vs. the goal of a 1.8% drop. That negative comp-store mark was the third consecutive negative monthly comp sales measure posted by the Index, which had dropped by 0.9% in November and fell 1.0% in December.

Until now, said Redbook analyst Catlin Levis in response to a query by HTT, “We have never had three consecutive months of negative year-over-year change since the Index began in 1964.”

The final week of January – and the 52nd and final week in most retailers’ fiscal year – ended with a disappointing 2.7% comp-store sales dip. Discounters finished the month with a tepid comp gain of 1.9%, but department stores posted an icy 9.8% comp drop. The disparity between the channels has been extreme, as consumers divert less and less of their strained household budgets to discretionary spending.

“Most retailers ended January on a weak note,” said Levis. “Sales in the final week were adversely affected by winter storms across the country causing power outages, snarling traffic and forcing businesses to close. Meanwhile, Super Bowl Sunday drove sales of snack foods and beverages.”

Levis noted the four-week February retail month “includes the arrival of spring merchandise in stores and promotional programs for Valentine's Day and President Day. Our preliminary target is for a year-over-year same store growth of -2.3%.”

That would mark a fourth straight month of negative comps, and a grim new record.

Johnson Redbook Index
Fourth week of January year-over-year % change

Week Ended 1/10 1/17 1/24 1/31 Month Target
*Including chain stores and traditional department stores
Source: Johnson Redbook Index
Department stores* -9.1 -9.8 -9.4 -10.8 -9.8 -9.0
Discounters 2.1 1.9 1.7 1.9 1.9 2.3
Redbook Index -1.9 -2.3 -2.3 -2.7 -2.3 -1.8


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