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Redbook: March goes out, limping

New York — Stalled by snow and freezing rain, and hobbled further by a late Easter this year, same-store retail sales continued their downward spiral, tumbling by 2.5 percent during the fifth and final week of March, the Redbook Retail Sales Average reported.

The deep decline followed an even steeper drop of 2.8 percent the prior week.

For the entire month, the sales average fell by 1.7 percent, far worse than a targeted decline of 0.5 percent. Department stores turned in the weakest performance, with same-store sales dropping by 5.9 percent, almost twice the size of a forecast decline of 3.1 percent. Discounters also missed their March sales target, with an increase of 1.0 percent falling just shy of a planned 1.2 percent.

Sales for most of March were hurt by the late Easter, which pushed holiday sales into April results. But the difficult comparison gets left behind now, said Redbook analyst Catlin Levis, and April sales should start running well ahead. "Following a below-plan March, our preliminary target for April is for year-over-year growth of 2.7 percent, which would result in a month-to-month gain against March of 5.1 percent."

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