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No thaw for same-store in second week

Hit hard by winter storms that ripped through most of the eastern seaboard, shutting down roadways and locking consumers out of the malls, same-store retail sales limped up just 0.5 percent during the second week of February, according to the Redbook Retail Sales Average.

But even whacked by the weather, sales improved over the prior week's 0.2 percent decline. For the two weeks month-to-date, sales fell 1.2 percent from the same period in January, far worse than a targeted drop of 0.3 percent. And measured on a year-over-year basis, sales for the two-week period were virtually flat with year-before levels, rising just 0.1 percent above the same period in 2002, well off the target of a 1.1 percent increase.

"Sales were somewhat mixed in the second week but were better overall than in the first week as Valentine's Day was a major draw for some merchants, attracting customers into stores," said Redbook analyst Catlin Levis. "Certain stores reported sales of Valentine's Day items such as jewelry, selected women's apparel, flowers and candy. Merchants said the resulting increase in customer counts drove traffic in categories not directly related to the event."

At the same time, said Levis, consumers worried about possible terrorist activity were stocking up on basics and consumables.

Discounters, Levis added, "continued to fare better than stores dependent on discretionary spending." Still drawing in budget-conscious consumers, discounters boosted their sales by 3.2 percent during the week, while full-price department store sales dropped off by 4.1 percent.

Bad weather along the East Coast dampened sales on the weekend and offset gains earlier in the week. But still, Levis noted, "stores are trying to reach company expectations" for the entire month. February, she noted, "is a short month with thin volumes made volatile by spring transitions and individual promotional events."

Redbook Retail Sales Average
Second week of February

Week ended 2/8 2/15 2/22 3/1 Month Target
*Including chain stores and traditional department stores.
Source: Redbook Retail Sales Average, a unit of Instinet, a Reuters company.
Department stores* -3.1 -4.1 -3.6 -2.8
Discounters 1.5 3.2 2.4 3.4
Redbook average -0.2 0.5 0.1 1.1


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