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Redbook shows slight retail rebound

NEW YORK -Picking up steam, but still behind plan, retail sales moved up by 2.3 percent during the second week of March, according to the widely watched Redbook Retail Sales Average, with department stores and chains making the greatest gains after stumbling badly the week before.

But even with the same-store gain of 2.3 percent, sales of the national retailers canvassed each week by Redbook analysts fell shy of a targeted gain of 3.2 percent.

The biggest gains were broadline retailers-department stores and chains-whose sales moved up by 1.1 percent after dropping by 0.4 percent the previous week, lifted by strong sales of home furnishings and seasonal apparel. For the first two weeks of March, broadline sales inched up by 0.4 percent, far short of a 1.3 percent target.

Sales at the nation's big discounters held relatively steady, advancing by 2.9 percent following a 3.3 percent increase the preceding week. Up 2.3 percent for the first two weeks of the month, discounters still missed their target of a 3.2 percent advance.

"Sales were mixed to modestly firmer in the second week of March, but remained below plan for the week and month-to-date," said Redbook analyst John Pitt. "Certain retailers saw a sharp improvement in store traffic and sales, but business continued to be disappointing for most. However, the slight increase in momentum set the stage for additional possible gains going forward, and left retailers cautiously optimistic for the remainder of the month."

Polishing up their crystal balls, most retailers are holding their original targets for the month, said Pitt, counting on this year's five-week period to provide a wider margin of error. "Additionally, many retailers planned for a backloaded month, with seasonal business expected to improve in the second half due to gradually warming temperatures and the gravitational pull of the early Easter holiday, typically a catalyst for spring sales."

Redbook Retail Sales Average Second Week of March


WEEK ENDED 3/10 3/17 3/24 3/31 4/7 MONTH TARGET

Broadline*

-0.4

1.1

0.4

1.3

Discounters

3.3

2.9

3.1

4.1

Redbook Average

2.2

2.3

2.3

3.2


*Broadline retailers, including department stores and chains.

Source: Redbook Retail Sales Average, a unit of Instinet, a Reuters company.

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