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Dep't Stores Outpace Mass in March Comps

Same-store retail sales jumped up by 4.7% during the fourth week of March, largely on the rising strength of the nation's full-price department stores, which offset continued disappointing results at discounters.

Department store comps soared higher by 6.3%, the Johnson Redbook Index reported, far surpassing a more modest gain of 3.7% at mass merchants.

For the four weeks month to date, overall same-store sales missed their target — up 4.1% vs. a hoped for 4.4% — held in check by softness at discounters. So far this month, discounter sales rose 3.2%, lagging behind a goal of 4.0%. But department stores, still on a roll, have pushed sales up 5.5%, easily besting a 4.9% target. March is a five-week retail period ending April 7.

Measured against February, overall sales rose by 0.9%, lagging a target of 1.2% growth.

"Mild temperatures throughout the country and Easter promotions have put shoppers in a shopping mood," said Redbook analyst Catlin Levis. "Students on spring break during the period also helped to give sales and traffic an extra boost as some were shopping for prom dresses."

Department stores, said the analyst, "continued to gather strength," helped by Easter-related sales and activity in seasonal merchandise "such as apparel, footwear and accessories." Levis said, "After the fourth week our model was below retailers' monthly target, with department stores tracking ahead and discount stores behind. Discounters noted that increased business in food, certain apparel lines, toys and candy were typical of this holiday. Easter buying continued to show its traditional territorial bias, and was more intense in the southern states."

Johnson Redbook Index
Fourth week of March, year-over-year % change

Week ended 3/10 3/17 3/24 3/31 4/7 Month Target
*Including chain stores and traditional department stores
Source: Johnson Redbook Index
Department stores* 4.3 5.5 5.9 6.3 5.5 4.9
Discounters 2.8 3.1 3.3 3.7 3.2 4.0
Redbook Average 3.4 4.0 4.3 4.7 4.1 4.4


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