March same-store sales sputter

First week of March, year-over-year % change

Week ended 3/7 3/14 3/21 3/28 4/4    Month Target
*Including chain stores and traditional department stores
Source: Johnson Redbook Index
Department stores* -8.7               -8.7 -7.9
Discounters  2.9                2.9  3.4
Redbook Index -1.4             -1.4 -0.8

New York – Same-store sales continue to sputter as retailers move commodities but seasonal and fashion activity fails to materialize, the Johnson Redbook reported today.
Comps in the Johnson Redbook Retail Sales Index fell 1.4% in the first week of the five-week March retail month, with department stores posting a gloomy 8.7% drop and discounters a 2.9% gain.

The comparisons for March will be skewed somewhat by the shift of Easter to April this year from March last year – but March 2008 comps rose just 1.1%, Redbook data showed, not a particularly robust comparison.

As for the current month, said Redbook analyst Catlin Levis, “Sales were below plan in the first week of March. Late winter snowstorms passed through the northeast Monday, snapping power lines, closing schools and businesses and disrupting traffic.

“Despite the slow start to March, retailers are looking particularly for an improvement in seasonal business as warmer weather draws closer. Discounters saw steady volume in consumables and other basic items.”

Levis said of the comparison: “ Most Easter shopping fell into March last year but this year will be primarily accounted for in April, thereby depressing March sales. To counter the distortion, retailers recommend averaging both months' comps, producing a combined growth rate.”

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