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Weather doesn't dampen sales

Despite unseasonably cold and damp weather that cramped sales of seasonal apparel in many parts of the country, same-store retail sales, helped by the Memorial Day weekend, moved up by 1.5 percent from year-ago levels during the third week of May, jumping up after a much softer 0.3 percent increase the preceding week.

But held in check by sluggish sales earlier during May, sales for the three weeks month-to-date advanced a slender 0.8 percent from May of last year, the Redbook Retail Sales Average reported.

And in bad news for suppliers with goods still on shelves, sales for the three-week period are down by 2.7 percent from the same period last month, according to the widely watched gauge of retail activity. The Redbook Average measures same-store sales of a large sample of department stores and discounters representing about 9,000 doors around the nation.

As during the past two years, all of the gain during the third week of May came out of the discount channel, offsetting a continued decline at full-price department stores. Discounter sales strengthened by 2.9 percent, improving over gains of 1.3 percent recorded during each of the two previous weeks. For the three weeks month-to-date, discounter sales are up by 1.9 percent, slightly ahead of the target of 1.8 percent.

Department store sales. though, slipped by 0.8 percent, something of an improvement over the prior week's 1.3 percent drop. Month-to-date, department store sales were off by 0.8 percent, just missing the target of a 0.7 percent decline.

Striking a cautionary note, Redbook analyst Catlin Levis said, "The persistence of unseasonable weather the past few weeks, at the start of the spring selling season, raised the possibility that stores will have to take markdowns and cut margins from mid-June onwards in order to clear seasonal goods."

Top merchandise categories, Levis noted, "varied according to some specialty stores but included children's wear, women's apparel, outdoor goods and home improvement."

Redbook Retail Sales Average
Third week of May

Week ended 5/10 5/17 5/24 2/31 Month Target
*Including chain stores and traditional department stores.
Source: Redbook Retail Sales Average, a unit of Instinet, a Reuters company.
Department stores* -0.4 -1.3 -0.8 -0.8 -0.7
Discounters 1.3 1.3 2.9 1.9 1.8
Redbook Average 0.7 0.3 1.5 0.8 0.8


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