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December same-store sales slipping

New York-- Withshoppers trained like Pavlov's dogs to wait for deeper discounts closer to the holiday, and unseasonably warm weather chilling out apparel sales, consumers pushed same-store sales beneath plan for a second straight week, the Johnson Redbook reported today.

Same-store sales rose by 2.5%, slightly ahead of last week's 2.4% rise, but sales through t he first two weeks of the month, up by 2.5%, lagg ed a target of 2.9% growth.

"Retailers said the sluggish sales and slow customer traffic seen in the first week of December carried through most of the second week," said Redbook analyst Catlin Levis. "The unseasonably warm weather has people thinking about electronics rather than apparel, stalling sales of w inter outerwear and sweaters . As a result, sales growth at discount stores continued to be strongest in food and basic consumables rather than in clothing. At the more apparel-focused department stores, consumers concentrated on accessories, shoes and handbags."

The muted sales, said Levis , "may also be attributed to a trend of last-minute shopping and the popularity of gift cards for presents, the majority of which are purchased during the week before Christmas." The growing use of gift cards, the analyst noted, has a particularly depressing effect on pre-Christmas sales since revenue from gift cards isn't counted until the cards are actually used after the holidays.

The calendar could provide something of a lift to the third week of December, said Levis , since Hanukkah begins on the 16th, earlier than last year.

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