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Retailers rally with December comps

New York-- Same-store retail sales delivered an 11th-hour surge during the fifth and final week of December, climbing by 3.2% and putting mostU.S.retailers on or slightly ahead of plan during the closing week of the year, the Johnson Redbook Index reported.

But even with the relatively strong finish, sales for all of December just missed the mark, the Redbook Index said, rising by 2.8%, slightly beneath an anticipated 2.9% increase.

Gaining steadily throughout the month, department-store sales surged by 4.8% during the closing week, improving on a 4.5% increase the week before in the run-up to the holiday.

Sales in the final week of December rose by 2.0% at mass merchants, besting a 1.7% increase the prior week.

In a striking reversal of last year's shopping patterns, department stores significantly outperformed mass merchants during December 2006. In 2005, discounters came out on top with a 3.8% increase, and department stores lagged with a 3.0% gain. But this year, upstairs comps rose almost three times as fast as downstairs, 4.5% vs. 1.8%.

The comp-store gain for December 2006 still lagged behind last year's results. For the entire month, same-store sales rose by 2.8% in 2006, well behind the 3.4% increase put up a year ago.

Johnson Redbook chart

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