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Redbook average gets boost in final week of December

New York — Getting a last-minute lift from heavy post-holiday promotions, same-store retail sales moved up by 1.8 percent during the fifth and final week of December, according to the widely watched Redbook Retail Sales Average. But it wasn't enough to save the month, and sales for all of December edged up just 0.1 percent, finishing off a brutally punishing year for many American retailers.

In what many are calling the worst holiday season in a decade, the 0.1 percent increase represents a steadily worsening performance from a moderate 2.1 percent increase recorded a year ago, and an even bigger drop from the 4.5 percent increase posted in December 1999. Even so, December turned out somewhat better than expected, against a targeted drop of 1.2 percent.

Hewing true to a trend begun more than a year ago, discounters sharply outperformed department stores, racking up a solid 3.7 percent increase for the month, compared with a 3.9 percent decline at the nation's department stores. During the final week of December, discounter sales climbed higher by 5.8 percent vs. a 2.9 percent decline for department stores.

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