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Redbook falls short in 2nd week

Don Hogsett -- Home Textiles Today, March 25, 2002

Same-store retail sales moved up by 5.9 percent during the second week of March, the Redbook Retail Sales Average reported. But capped by continued weakness in department stores, sales for the month-to-date period still came in slightly beneath plan.

Reversing a small rally in recent weeks and a push into positive territory, department store sales slipped by 0.1 percent during the week, pushing the overall Redbook Average modestly shy of its target for the first two weeks of March, with overall sales rising by 5.3 percent for the month-to-date period, compared with a targeted gain of 5.6 percent. During the first week of the month, department store sales looked like they might be in a recovery mode, climbing by 0.9 percent.

Sales at the nation's big mass merchants continued to accelerate, climbing by 9.8 percent during the week, well ahead of the 7.3 percent increase racked up during the first week of March. Fueled by gains at discounters, the overall Redbook Average climbed by 5.9 percent during the week, improving on a 4.7 percent gain during the preceding week.

"Despite a higher average than the previous week, the business picture was mixed," said Redbook analyst Catlin Levis. "Department stores indicated that sales momentum had slowed, and their year-over-year comparisons fell from the previous weeks' levels."

But declines at full-price retailers, she said, were offset by increases in the big mass merchant channel. "Discount stores, with their more diverse lines, saw firm business in consumer basics like food, household supplies and home-related goods. Toys, footwear and children's wear also did well."

For the two weeks month-to-date, "sales momentum remains relatively solid. Sales levels are expected to rise steadily into the Easter weekend at the end of the fourth week before tailing off in the fifth and final week of the month," she said.

In part, said Levis, sturdy sales in March reflect a quirk of the calendar and an earlier Easter this year. And April's growth rate, she added, will likely show "a corresponding downward bias," as Easter holiday sales are shifted from April into March.

Strongest sales gains during the second week of March were recorded in the Midwest and Northeastern states.

Redbook Retail Sales Average
Second 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 -0.1 0.4 0.9
Discounters 7.3 9.8 8.6 8.7
Redbook Average 4.7 5.9 5.3 5.6


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