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Retail sales hurt by Easter shift

Hampered by blustery weather and a shift in the calendar that moved the Easter shopping season into March, sucking sales out of April, retail sales have softened this month, and same-store sales during the third week of the month inched up just 0.9 percent, according to the Redbook Retail Sales Average.

The rate of sales growth fell substantially from the prior week, when same-store sales climbed higher at a robust pace of 3.2 percent.

For the three weeks month-to-date, the Redbook Retail Sales Average moved up by 1.8 percent, only modestly ahead of a target of 1.4 percent. Sales at the nation's big discounters advanced by 1.8 percent during the week, cooling off after a big 5.6 percent increase the previous week. Department store sales were off by 0.6 percent.

In something of a role reversal, for the three weeks month-to-date, department stores were running well ahead of plan, their sales down just 0.7 percent, compared with an expected decline of 1.4 percent. But discounters are turning in a relatively muted performance, sales up 3.4 percent, only slightly ahead of a targeted gain of 3.1 percent.

"Our model reflects negative monthly changes and lower annual growth rates for April relative to March, the result of the Easter shift," noted Redbook analyst Catlin Levis. "In March, year-over-year comparisons were favored by the earlier Easter, which pulled more sales volume into that month. Obviously, in April, the effect is reversed."

During the third week of April, said Levis, some retailers blamed the windy, wet and stormy weather across much of the country for holding back seasonal business. "Hardlines, along with home-related businesses, maintained their category leadership, said Levis. "However, many retailers noted that demand was broad-based and included basic household goods and consumables. When weather is better sales usually pick up smartly."

With one more week to go, said Levis, "April is expected to remain somewhat above target."

Redbook Retail Sales Average
Third week of April

Week ended 4/13 4/20 4/27 5/4 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 -0.6 -0.6 -0.7 -1.4
Discounters 2.7 5.6 1.8 3.4 3.1
Redbook Average 1.3 3.2 0.9 1.8 1.4

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