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Comps lackluster, more markdowns ahead

December same-store sales still behind target

New York - Comps were up 4.5% in the fourth week of December following a 3.9% gain the prior week, said the Johnson Redbook Retail Sales Index.

Month-to-date, December was up 3.5% compared to December of last year, relative to a target of a 3.8% gain. Month-over-month showed a 0.7% drop, relative to a target of a 0.4% drop.

December is a five-week month on the retail calendar, ending on Jan. 4, 2014.

"Our retailer's sample in aggregate continues to lag its December target," noted Catlin Levis, Redbook analyst. "However, certain retailers did report stellar gains and found themselves back on plan, or close to it, after several weeks of sub-target activity."

Retailers told Redbook the bulk of the week's business was done on the 24th and 26th, the days immediately prior to and following Christmas. Margins remained under pressure, said Levis.

"With post-Christmas clearance sales starting on Friday [the 27th], many people took Friday off," Levis continued. "Millions of gift card holders rushed to stores in search of bargains. Retailers are thereby hoping that consumers redeem their gift cards to provide a lift to holiday results as gift card sales are recorded when redeemed."

Retailers are expected to go heavy with markdowns this week and through next month, she added, "since missed sales targets imply inventory overhangs which must be cleared before the spring season starts."

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