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Cool weather heats up October sales

Cooling autumn weather helped to drive a pick-up in retail sales during the second week of October, according to the widely watched Redbook Retail Sales Average. Discounters reported a strong 5.4 percent increase in sales, and even department stores showed some improvement — sales still down, but not as far as before.

Given the above-plan sales during the second week of the month, the Redbook Average of overall sales ticked up by 1.4 percent through the first two weeks of the month, hitting the monthly target.

"Sales were above plan in the second week of October and are within the plan range month-to-date," said Redbook analyst Catlin Levis. "The weather was the catalyst for the pick-up in sales as falling temperatures spurred demand for seasonal merchandise, especially clothing. Both discount and department store formats reported better business in cool-weather apparel. Apparel sales may also have been stimulated by more promotional pricing as stores sought to shift goods ahead of the holiday season."

Levis said the stronger results for the first two weeks of the month "broke a string of below-par numbers and led retailers to express guarded optimism for the remaining two weeks of October." Some retailers, she added, noted that midweek strength had continued throughout the weekend, laying a base for positive numbers going forward through the balance of the month.

Department stores, said Levis, "continue to cut expenses and trim inventories. They are also starting to add more low-price goods and reduce merchandise markups to attract price-conscious consumers."

The main merchandise themes in October, Levis noted, "include mid-fall seasonal apparel, Halloween, winter sports and early holiday shopping. Merchants said that sales in these areas were starting to build. Elsewhere, the focus continued to be on consumer staples and household basics."

Redbook Retail Sales Average Second Week of October

Week Ended 10/13 10/20 10/27 11/3 month target
*Including chain stores and traditional department stores.
Source: Redbook Retail Sales Average, a unit of Instinet, a Reuters company.
Department Stores* -4.8 -2.4 -3.6 -3.7
Discounters 4.1 5.4 4.8 4.8
Redbook Average 0.5 2.3 1.4 1.4

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