Heavy Rain Means Light Sales for Retailers

Hampered by heavy rain and winter storms that kept shoppers indoors throughout parts of the country, post-Christmas retail sales came in a little light during the first week of January, rising 3.1 percent but missing a targeted gain of 3.2 percent, the Johnson Redbook reported.

Sales were off the even faster pace of a 5.2 percent increase recorded the prior week during the busiest moments of the post-holiday season.

Department stores performed well, with a same-store sales increase of 1.1 percent, easily besting a target of 0.9 percent. But acting as a drag were the nation's big mass merchants, where sales came in beneath expectations. Discounter same-store sales advanced 4.3 percent, but still missed the target of 4.7 percent.

“Sales were slightly below plan for most companies in our model in the first week of January,” said Redbook Analyst Catlin Levis. “Store traffic was slower, somewhat impacted by heavy rain and winter storms in parts of the West and Midwest. Meanwhile, sales drivers are still in place in other areas.”

The analyst commented, “Retailers said it was mainly larger than average purchases that had driven the week's growth. This may have been partly due to the seasonal mix shifting to bigger-ticket items such as coats and electronics, but may also reflect gift-card redemptions and bargain-hunting by shoppers trained to defer expensive purchases to post-holiday sales.”

Levis noted, “Retailers continued to be promotional, as they typically are in January, when winter goods are cleared to make room for incoming spring merchandise. With the increasing popularity of gift cards, some retailers brought in new spring full-price merchandise earlier than usual in order to boost their bottom line.”

Johnson Redbook Retail Sales Index
First week of January

Week ended 1/8 1/15 1/22 1/29 Month Target
*Including chain stores and traditional department stores.
Source: Johnson Redbook Index
Department stores* 1.1 1.1 0.9
Discounters 4.3 4.3 4.7
Redbook Average 3.1 3.1 3.2

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