Same-store sales sluggish in April

With soggy weather setting in across much of the country, and without a big holiday on the calendar, there wasn't much reason for consumers to rush to the malls last month — and they didn't. In fact, same-store retail sales declined by 0.3 percent from their lackluster March level, according to the Redbook Retail Sales Average.

Pulling down the monthly numbers was a notably weak performance during the fourth week of April, particularly at department stores, according to the retail barometer. Sales in department stores declined by 1.1 percent during the closing week, compared with a 2.1 percent gain at discounters. Overall sales for the final week were up just 0.8 percent from the prior year.

For the entire month, same-store sales inched up by 1.6 percent from year-ago levels, but fell 0.3 percent from March. Department store sales, on their familiar downward trajectory, slipped by 0.8 percent for all of April, something of an improvement over the 1.4 percent drop that had been expected. But discounters, with a 3.0 percent increase, just slightly missed their target of a 3.1 percent gain.

"The slight pullback in the final week was primarily due to lower performance by department stores," said Redbook analyst Catlin Levis. "Most stores closed April on plan, and some beat initial sales targets. For the week, sales results were mixed as some retailers reported a strong finish to the month, while others complained of poor customer turnout and reduced traffic due to unseasonably cool and wet weather throughout some parts of the country."

Leading merchandise categories during the final week were women's accessories, home appliances, hardware and basic consumables, said Levis.

Looking forward to May, Levis said the month includes two shopping events, Mothers's Day and Memorial Day. That should produce a year-over-year gain in sales of 1.3 percent. But even with the two holidays, sales are expected to decline by 2.2 percent from April levels, she noted.

Redbook Retail Sales Average
Fourth week of April

Week ended 4/13 4/20 4/27 5/4 Month Target
*Including chain stores and traditional department stores.
Source: Redbook Retail Sales Average, a unit of Instinet, a Reuters company.
Department stores* -1.0 -0.6 -0.6 -1.1 -0.8 -1.4
Discounters 2.7 5.6 1.8 2.1 3.0 3.1
Redbook Average 1.3 3.2 0.9 0.8 1.6 1.4

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