Same-store sales near 6 percent

With momentum building steadily throughout the month, same-store retail sales shot up by 5.8 percent during the fourth week of February, easily beating plan and the performance of the three prior weeks, The Redbook Average reported.

For the month, sales increased 5.3 percent, surpassing a smaller forecast gain of 4.5 percent, helped by full-price sales of spring apparel, said Redbook Analyst Catlin Levis.

Measured against the prior month, February sales rose by 1.2 percent above January levels, substantially outpacing a forecast of 0.5 percent growth.

Helping to fuel the overall growth was an unexpectedly strong performance from the nation's department stores, which are rallying strongly after a weak performance over the past two years. Sales in department stores jumped up by 5.4 percent during the final week of the month, and by 4.4 percent for all of February, breezing past a forecasted gain of 3.3 percent.

Mass merchant sales climbed by 5.8 percent during the closing week, and by 5.3 percent for the month, improving on a plan of 4.5 percent growth.

"February turned out to be a successful month for most retailers, although it contributed a relatively small percentage of annual sales," said Levis. "Most retailers seemed satisfied with their momentum, which built early and steadily and remained in place throughout the period."

The sales strength "surprised some retailers, since it was not entirely typical of a transitional month early in a new season," she said. "Stores are optimistic to see early business in spring apparel moving at full price in addition to other seasonal categories, primarily in the warmer parts of the country. Career and menswear also have shown some strength after having experienced soft sales for the past couple of years."

Looking ahead, Levis said the preliminary Redbook target for March is a 5.7 percent year-over-year gain, resulting in a flat reading versus February.

Redbook Retail Sales Average
Fourth week of February

Week ended 2/7 2/14 2/21 2/28 Month Target
*Including chain stores and traditional department stores.
Source: Redbook Research Inc.
Department stores* 3.1 4.1 5.0 5.4 4.4 3.3
Discounters 5.2 5.9 5.9 6.0 5.8 5.3
Redbook Average 4.4 5.2 5.6 5.8 5.3 4.5

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