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Shops hope for return to happy days

Same-store retail sales continued their recent recovery during the second week of October, pushing up by 3.5 percent following a gain of 3.6 percent the prior week, the Redbook Retail Sales Average reported.

With cooler weather across much of the country boosting sales of seasonal apparel, sales continued to climb higher, climbing back from a long slide, if falling slightly shy of a targeted gain of 3.8 percent.

Sales at full-price department stores continued to rally, recovering from a two-year string of declines, and improved by 1.6 percent from year-ago levels, following a 1.7 percent increase the preceding week. Sales at the nation's mass merchants advanced 4.7 percent, off slightly from the prior week's 4.8 percent increase.

"Sales continued to be very mixed in the second week," reported Redbook analyst Catlin Levis. "Most companies in our model continued to perform on or close to plan month-to-date, but some reported a decline in store traffic. Category reports indicated that consumers were focusing on non-seasonal items such as food, electronics and basic consumables."

Levis added, "Temperatures were variable across the country, but as a rule the cooler the region the better the seasonal apparel and other cold-weather-related business. Most stores reported Halloween-related business was up from last year's level partially as a result of last year's increased fears of terrorism."

This year, Levis observed, the Halloween event gets the benefit of an extra day's sales, with the holiday falling on a Friday, compared with a Thursday last year.

For the second half, Levis said, "Retailers expect a positive outcome supported by cooler weather, more parties and last-minute shopping."

Sales during the second week were strongest in the mid-Atlantic region, she said.

Redbook Retail Sales Average
Second week of October

Week ended 10/11 10/18 10/25 11/1 Month Target
*Including chain stores and traditional department stores.
Source: Redbook Retail Sales Average, a unit of Instinet, a Reuters company.
Department stores* 1.7 1.6 1.6 1.9
Discounters 4.8 4.7 4.7 5.1
Redbook Average 3.6 3.5 3.5 3.8


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