Same-stores sales top expectations

Helped by another strong week at the nation's resurgent department store channel, same-store retail sales jumped by 5.4 percent during the second week of April, easily exceeding plan for the second straight week this month, The Reedbook Average reported.

Helped by warm weather and sales of seasonal apparel, sales improved over a strong 5.1 percent gain during the first week of March, and for the two weeks month-to-date are now up by 5.2 percent, beating a forecast gain of 5 percent.

"Sales were comfortably above plan in the second week of March with warm weather serving as a primary sales driver," said Redbook Analyst Catlin Levis. "Most retailers were satisfied with both traffic and average tickets over the week as a whole."

Continuing a recent winning streak, department stores grew their sales by 4.2 percent during the week, improving on a 3.7 percent increase during the preceding week. Measured on a month-to-date basis, sales in the full-price channel climbed by 3.9 percent, breezing past a plan of 3.6 percent growth. Discounter sales improved by 6.1 percent, slightly ahead of the prior week's 6 percent increase. Month-to-date, mass merchant sales rose by 6 percent, beating a forecast of 5.8 percent growth.

"Retailers reported strength in a range of product categories from spring apparel, Easter seasonal items, electronics and gardening tools. Discount stores, with their more diverse lines, saw firm business in consumer basics such as food and household supplies," said Levis.

In a surprising twist, retailers got an unexpected boost from a highly unlikely source, said The Redbook Average. "The release of the film, "The Passion of the Christ," has spurred consumer demand for Christian-themed merchandise such as jewelry, apparel, books, music and video games," Levis reported.

Looking ahead through the back half of the month, sales should get another boost as consumers cash their tax refund checks. "Retailers are counting on tax-refund checks giving consumer spending a boost in the first half of the year," said Levis, and some discounters are rolling out programs to cash refund checks at no charge.

Redbook Retail Sales Average
Second week of March

Week ended 3/6 3/13 3/20 3/27 4/3 Month Target
*Including chain stores and traditional department stores.
Source: Redbook Research Inc.
Department stores* 3.7 4.2 3.9 3.6
Discounters 6.0 6.1 6.0 5.8
Redbook Average 5.1 5.4 5.2 5.0

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