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Department stores drive retail sales

Tearing ahead at an impressive pace for a fourth straight week, same-store retail sales surged by 6.9 percent during the fourth week of March, helped by an exceptionally strong gain at the nation's full-price department stores, The Redbook Average reported.

Enjoying a brief, if not protracted, revival after languishing for more than two years, department stores actually outperformed their mass merchant rivals for a second straight week, pouring on a sales gain of 9.5 percent, easily surpassing a strong 6 percent increase at discounters.

Retail sales have now been building steadily throughout the month, putting up respective weekly gains of 5.1 percent, 5.4 percent, 6.3 percent and now 6.9 percent.

"With Easter two weekends away, one week earlier than last year in April, the traditional bulge in sales related to the holiday has already begun," said Catlin Levis, Redbook analyst. "Sales were driven by a combination of seasonal demand for spring merchandise and interest in Easter-related merchandise."

Levis continued, "Spring business, which focused on seasonal apparel, was aided by the outbreak of warm weather in many parts of the country. Apparel, including menswear, women's wear and footwear, especially in higher-priced categories, continued to gather momentum in department stores, while discounters' best product lines were in seasonal goods, health and beauty aids and food."

Breaking out business on a regional basis, Levis said, "Easter buying continued to show more intensity in the western states."

Going forward, Levis added, "In the coming weeks, retailers are hoping that extra cash from income tax refunds and mortgage refinancing will spark sales, while some are worried about rising oil prices and slow growth in the labor market stalling consumer spending."

Redbook Retail Sales Average
Fourth week of March

Week ended 3/6 3/13 3/20 3/27 4/3 Month Target
*Including chain stores and traditional department stores.
Source: Redbook Research Inc.
Department stores* 3.7 4.2 6.5 9.5 3.9 3.6
Discounters 6.0 6.1 6.1 6.0 6.0 5.8
Redbook Average 5.1 5.4 6.3 6.9 5.6 5.0


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