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Sales up, but still short of target

Fueled largely by post-Christmas promotions and heavy use of holiday gift cards, same-store retail sales climbed higher by 3.8 percent over year-before levels during the first week of January, the Redbook Retail Sales Average reported.

While relatively strong, sales fell slightly short of a target of a 3.9 percent increase. Measured on a month-over-month basis, sales were 0.3 percent higher than during the first week of December, shy of a targeted gain of 0.4 percent.

"Post-Christmas sales drivers are still mostly in place," said Redbook analyst Catlin Levis, who took note of "an especially large number of gift-card purchases.

"Business was spurred by promotions from firms with annual year-end closing of fall inventories in preparation for spring goods," said Levis. "Clearance will be the key theme in January, with most retailers planning to bring in new spring merchandise from about the middle of the month, although promotional clearances and price-discounting were not as heavy as last year."

Cold weather also helped drive sales, Levis observed. "The late arrival of cold weather across the Northeast was enough to drive consumers into stores for cold-weather clothing. Outerwear and other seasonal clothing ranked high on sales-leader lists. Retailers also reported gains in home goods, sporting goods and consumables."

January is a four-week month on the retail reporting calendar, and the final month of the fourth quarter for most U.S. retailers.

Redbook Retail Sales Average
First week of January

Week ended 1/10 1/17 1/24 1/31 Month Target
*Including chain stores and traditional department stores.
Source: Redbook Research Inc.
Department Stores* 2.3 2.3 2.5
Discounters 4.6 4.6 4.7
Redbook Average 3.8 3.8 3.9


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