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Month begins with comp-store spike

Though short of target, still up over April levels

NEW YORK — Same-store sales for a broad cross-section of retailers ticked up by 2.2 percent over year-ago levels during the first week of May, but still fell slightly shy of a targeted increase of 2.6 percent on continued weakness in department stores, the widely watched Redbook Average reported.

Helped by warm weather throughout most of the nation, sales edged up by 0.5 percent over April levels, but still missed the target of 0.8 percent.

"Sales were below plan, or at the lower end of planned ranges, for most retailers in our model in the first week," said Redbook analyst Catlin Levis. "The week's performance was driven down by slower department store sales."

Same-store sales in the nation's department stores actually declined by 1.0 percent, falling even deeper than a forecasted dip of 0.6 percent. Same-store sales at discounters moved up by 3.6 percent over last-year's levels, but still came up short, missing a targeted gain of 4.1 percent.

"Warm weather, however, has helped some discount stores move horticultural products, apparel and other seasonal items. Sales of cosmetics, accessories and jewelry also performed above average," said Levis.

Some gains, said the analyst, "may have been due to a calendar effect, since most retailers in our sample compared Mother's Day sales against the period one week prior to Mother's Day last year. Business typically peaks in May before clearance starts in June."

Despite the slow start to May, Levis said that "retailers are looking in particular for improvement in seasonal business as warmer weather and a May Memorial Day holiday draw closer. Regionally, business was well distributed across the country, although some retailers noted that sales in the West were stronger."

Redbook Retail Sales Average
First Week of May

Week Ended 5/12 5/19 5/26 6/2 Month Target
*Including chain stores and traditional department stores.
Source: Redbook Retail Sales Average, a unit of Instinet, a Reuters company.
Department Stores* -1.0 -1.0 -0.6
Discounters 3.6 3.6 4.1
Redbook Average 2.2 2.2 2.6


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