Same-stores rebound slightly

Lifted by warmer weather and sales of seasonal apparel, same-store retail sales staged a modest rebound during the final week of April, but it still wasn't enough to overcome a lackluster Easter and save a dreary month.

A key barometer of activity at the malls, the Redbook Retail Sales Average rose by 2.2 percent during the fourth week of April, up from an 0.9 percent increase the week before. But overall, April sales inched up 1.9 percent, far behind a targeted gain of 2.9 percent.

Predictably, full-price department stores fared the worst, with sales declining by 1.3 percent during the week. For all of April, department store sales were off by 2.5 percent, worse than the target of a 1.8 percent drop.

Discounter sales advanced by 4.4 percent during the final week, improving on a 3.8 percent increase the preceding week. But it was nothing like the strong 5.6 percent gain mass merchants put up during the first week of the month. Discounters, too, failed to make their monthly numbers, with a sales gain of 4.6 percent.

But even with the last-minute bounce, "our retail sample ended April on a disappointing note," said Redbook analyst Catlin Levis. "Retailers had been relying on April to compensate for March, when performance was suppressed by the shift in the Easter holiday. As a result, the Easter week itself failed to reach the levels retailers had hoped, and planned, for. By comparison, the combined average March/ April annual growth rate was a 0.1 percent gain.

"Retailers hope warm weather will spur shopping activity. Our initial target is for a year-over-year gain of 2.0 percent, which generates a month-to-month comparison of -1.9 percent."

Redbook Retail Sales Average
Fourth week of April

Week ended 4/12 4/19 4/26 5/3 Month Target
*Including chain stores and traditional department stores.
Source: Redbook Retail Sales Average, a unit of Instinet, a Reuters company.
Department stores* -3.8 -1.2 -3.8 -1.3 -2.5 -1.8
Discounters 5.6 4.4 3.8 4.4 4.6 5.8
Redbook Average 2.0 2.3 0.9 2.2 1.9 2.9

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