Redbook avg. above plan in Feb.

Don Hogsett, February 18, 2002

In a hopeful sign that consumers are flocking back to the malls and opening up their wallets, same-store retail sales sharply outpaced expectations during the first week of February, climbing by 4.2 percent, well ahead of a targeted gain of 3.3 percent, according to the Redbook Retail Sales Average.

Once again, the nation's low-margin, low-cost discounters led the pack, posting a hefty gain of 7.5 percent, easily besting a target of 6.3 percent growth.

And department stores, although still losing ground, managed to beat their sales targets as well. Department stores recorded a decline of 0.7 percent, better than the 1.3 percent drop that had been expected for the week.

Reflecting two straight months of strong gains in consumer confidence and improved, if still not robust, retail sales, Redbook analyst Catlin Levis revised her February target upward, from an initial forecast of a 1.1 percent decline in sales from January levels to a flat reading.

"Most retailers were running on to above their February plans by the end of the first week," said Levis. "Like January, February is a transitional month that makes a disproportionately small contribution to annual revenues. Therefore, retailers are generally cautious about projecting trends from it, although most seem satisfied with their progress to date."

Levis said retailers "continued to clear pockets of winter goods at markdowns, although these no longer represented a significant portion of business. Stores with broad product lines reported strength in basic lines, including food and household goods."

Sales were notably strong in the Utah market due to Olympic activity, Levis noted.

Redbook Retail Sales Average
First week of February

Week ended 2/9 2/16 2/23 3/2 Month Target
*Including chain stores and traditional department stores.
Source: Redbook Retail Sales Average, a unit of Instinet, a Reuters company.
Department Stores* -0.7 -0.7 -1.3
Discounters 7.5 7.5 6.3
Redbook Average 4.2 4.2 3.3

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