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Discounters provide slight sales gain

New York — Retail sales improved during the second week of July over a lackluster start to the month, driven, once again, by a strong performance at big discounters, according to the widely watched Redbook Retail Sales Average.

Sales during the second week moved up by 2.0 percent over the same period last year, improving on a 1.7 percent increase during the first week of the month. Measured on a month-over-month basis, sales were 1.3 percent above June levels, modestly behind a targeted gain of 1.5 percent.

Predictably, as consumers continue to seek out bargains, discounters were the strongest performers, pushing sales up by 3.9 percent, surpassing a target of 3.8 percent. Department store sales staged a modest rally, but were still mired in negative territory. Department store sales declined by 1.0 percent, besting the prior week's 1.5 percent decline.

"The week's performance was driven by mid-summer weather conditions over most of the country," said Redbook analyst Catlin Levis. "Seasonal goods moved well as stores stepped up clearance-oriented promotions ahead of fall re-stocking. Demand for hardline items like air conditioners, fans and outdoor furniture increased. Seasonal apparel was also moving, especially swimwear and children's and women's apparel. Business in basic consumables, food, pharmacy items and health and beauty products continued to be firm."

Levis added, "Month-to-date, department stores were below plan after the second week, while discounters were according to plan. Regionally, the West and Northeast performed better than the rest of the country."

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