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Redbook avg. drops in December

Don Hogsett -- Home Textiles Today, December 17, 2001

With the holiday season off to a slow start, same-store retail sales slipped by 0.9 percent during the first week of December as consumers deferred much of their buying until closer to the holiday, and closer to the discounts.

Same-store sales were off by almost 1 percent from the same period a year ago, and dropped by 4.5 percent from November, according to the Redbook Average, a widely watched barometer of retail activity across the nation.

Even so, the 0.9 percent decline during the week was better than expected, besting a forecast decline of 1.2 percent, said Redbook analyst Catlin Levis. Propping up the average was a stronger than expected performance at department stores, while discounters came in slightly under plan. Sales in department stores continued to fall, as they have for most of the year, but not as much as projected. Department store same-store sales fell by 5.0 percent vs. a forecast drop of 5.6 percent. Holding relatively steady, sales at the big mass merchants improved by 2.7 percent, lagging slightly below a forecast increase of 2.8 percent.

"Sales results for the first week were substantially lower than the prior week, partially due to unseasonably warm weather in most parts of the country as well as the general expectation that sales growth would be slow for the first two weeks of December as consumers plan to make purchases closer to Christmas," said Redbook's Levis.

"In the meantime," Levis added, "winter seasonal business continues to be primarily weather driven and therefore somewhat unpredictable. Other merchandise categories like toys, electronics, food and home goods have been more active as holiday shopping gets under way. After the first week, our model was running slightly above its December sales plan."

In a significant downward skewing of holiday sales, Levis observed, most retailers are on the National Retail Federation 4-5-4 retail calendar, and have six fewer pre-Christmas shopping days this December vs. last year, "making for a significant negative distortion for certain retailers." These retailers, she said, will likely report weaker gains in December after a technically inflated November. December is a five-week month on the fiscal calendar, ending Jan. 5.

Redbook Retail Sales Average
First week of December

Week ended 12/8 12/15 12/22 1/5 Month Target
*Including chain stores and traditional department stores.
Source: Redbook Retail Sales Average, a unit of Instinet, a Reuters company.
Department Stores* -5.0 -5.0 -5.6
Discounters 2.7 2.7 2.8
Redbook Average -0.9 -0.9 -1.2


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