Winter weather freezes same-stores

Hammered by winter storms that swept across much of the nation, shutting in consumers and shutting down malls, same-store retail sales staggered down by 2.6 percent during the third week of February, with full-price department stores especially hard hit, according to the Redbook Retail Sales Average.

"Heavy winter storms, particularly along the Northeast and parts of the Midwest regions, forced store closings and a disruption of business over the President's Day weekend," said Redbook analyst Catlin Levis. "The severe storms kept customers away from stores … However, most stores reopened on Tuesday."

With the snow dragging down results for the entire month, sales for the three weeks month-to-date fell 0.8 percent from February of last year and skidded down by 2.1 percent from the same three-week period in January.

Badly battered were department stores, which attract discretionary spenders through shelves full of postponable purchases, and same-store sales in that already deeply depressed channel skidded down by 10.4 percent during the week. Discounters, which draw in consumers with their front-of-the-store consumables and basic necessities, drove sales up by 2.2 percent, somewhat behind the 3.2 percent increase of the week before.

Given the weather-related disruption, "some retailers lowered their sales targets for the month while others are considering replaying Presidents' Day sales to account for lost revenue," Levis said.

Levis added, "Elsewhere, individual performances were partly determined by specific promotions and other calendar events. Retailers continue to clear remaining fall and winter inventories." Notable strength was recorded in electronics and outerwear. Consumables and household basics, the core business of discounters, also did well," Levis reported. Not surprisingly, the West Coast was cited as the strongest sales region.

Redbook Retail Sales Average
Third week of February

Week ended 2/8 2/15 2/22 3/1 Month Target
*Including chain stores and traditional department stores.
Source: Redbook Retail sales Average, a unit of Instinet, a Reuters company.
Department stores* -3.1 -4.1 -10.4 -5.8 -2.8
Discounters 1.5 3.2 2.2 2.3 3.4
Redbook average -0.2 0.5 -2.6 -0.8 1.1

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