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Gas Prices Drag Down Same-Store Sales

Hurt by a shift in the calendar and this year's early Easter, then hammered by rising gas prices, same-store retail sales remained soft and beneath plan during the third week of March, the Johnson Redbook Index reported.

Sales inched up just 1.5 percent during the week, on a par with the week before but slightly beneath the 1.7 percent gain put up during the first week of the month.

It doesn't happen often, but department stores actually outperformed discounters during the week and for the three weeks month-to-date. Department store same-store sales advanced 1.6 percent during the week, modestly ahead of a 1.4 percent increase reported by the nation's mass merchants. And for the three-week period, department stores nosed out discounters with a 1.6 percent gain versus a 1.5 percent increase at the giant discount chains.

Both channels of distribution underperformed and missed their targets for the three weeks month-to-date. The department store increase of 1.6 percent lagged a target of 2.1 percent growth. And the 1.5 percent increase at discounters came in shy of a goal of 1.8 percent.

“This performance continued the softening trend which has been apparent since the first week of April, when our retail sample fell behind plan, a reflection of the negative side of the Easter shift,” said Redbook Analyst Catlin Levis.

“With Easter out of the way, business activity was geographically diversified,” said the analyst. “Top selling merchandise categories didn't show a seasonal bias, instead they were concentrated in food and household basics. Some retailers, however, indicated particular strength in the South, where spring weather generally prevailed. There are indications that sales have been driven also by promotional activity and keen price competition. Retailers claimed that rising gasoline prices have cut back shoppers' discretionary spending on items such as clothing and home furnishings.”

Johnson Redbook Index
Third week of April

Week ended 4/9 4/16 4/23 4/30 Month Target
*Including chain stores and traditional department stores.
Source: Johnson Redbook Index
Department stores* 1.7 1.5 1.6 1.6 2.1
Discounters 1.7 1.5 1.4 1.5 1.8
Redbook Average 1.7 1.5 1.5 1.5 1.9


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