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Redbook avg. dips slightly in April

Despite continued strong sales of home-related merchandise, U.S. retailers opened the month on a somewhat muted note, with same-store sales rising by 1.3 percent during the first week of April, following a much stronger 3.3 percent increase the prior week, according to the Redbook Retail Sales Average.

In something of a surprise, and reversing recent trends, department stores, poor performers for almost two years, modestly exceeded their sales plan, while discounters came in slightly beneath their target.

Still waning, department store sales slipped by 1.0 percent during the week, but managed to beat a targeted decline of 1.4 percent. Discounter sales grew by 2.7 percent, but couldn't hit their target of 3.1 percent growth.

Measured on a month-over-month basis, April sales were up about 1.3 percent from year-ago levels, but down 0.6 percent from March 2002.

"The drop in our model's year-over-year growth rates from the final week of March reflects the transition from the positive to the negative side of the Easter shift," said Redbook analyst Catlin Levis. "The unfavorable comparison with the year-ago Easter week turned out to be less severe than many had expected."

Blustery weather in parts of the nation took its toll, Levis noted, hampering seasonal apparel sales. "However, retailers were compensated by strength in consumables and hard lines. Stores also reported increased activity in home-related goods from furniture and appliances to tools and furnishings as buyers geared up for spring home-improvement programs."

Gauging retail activity around the nation, Levis said, "Regionally, the East and West Coasts were the most active areas."

Redbook Retail Sales Average
First week of April

Week ended 4/13 4/20 4/27 5/4 Month Target
*Including chain stores and traditional department stores.
Source: Redbook Retail Sales Average, a unit of Instinet, a Reuters company.
Department Stores* -1.0 -1.0 -1.4
Discounters 2.7 2.7 3.1
Redbook Average 1.3 1.3 1.4

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