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Department Stores Droop

As the first month on most retailers' fiscal calendars, February is a time for final clearance sales and the start of transition to spring merchandise — but it certainly was not a reassuring way to start the year, with retailers reporting same-store sales up just 0.5%, trailing the modest goal of a rise of 0.7%, the Johnson Redbook reported.

The Johnson Redbook Retail Sales Index was up 0.1% in the fourth and final week of February, having sagged since mid-month. The month-over-month comp store rate was 1.3% below January, compared to a targeted 1.1% drop.

While discounters matched their target of a 0.8% comp gain, department stores fell distinctly short of their 0.6% comp gain goal — posting instead a drop of 0.1%.

"February sales importance remains circumscribed since it contributes a relatively small proportion of annual sales," Redbook analyst Catlin Levis suggested.

"Looking forward, March sales growth will be benefited by the earlier Easter this year," Levis noted. "Easter falls in March, two weeks earlier than last year, pushing the bulk of holiday sales into March rather than April. March and April should be combined for fair comparisons."

Johnson Redbook Index
Fourth week of February, year-over-year % change

Week ended 2/9 2/16 2/23 3/1 Month Target
*Including chain stores and traditional department stores
Source: Johnson Redbook Index
Department stores* 0.1 0.3 -0.2 -0.5 -0.1 0.6
Discounters 0.9 1.2 0.8 0.4 0.8 0.8
Redbook Average 0.6 0.8 0.4 0.1 0.5 0.7


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