By  on July 1, 2014

The first week of summer was the best week for U.S. retail sales since the first week of winter — in 2011.According to the International Council of Shopping Centers and Goldman Sachs’ weekly chain store sales index, sales last week rose 4.6 percent over the comparable week in 2013, the strongest year-over-year gain since sales rose 5.3 percent during the final week of 2011. The sequential gain for the week ended June 28 was a more modest 1 percent, lower than the 2 percent gain for the June 21 week but above the 0.4 percent rise for the week ended June 14.RELATED CONTENT: WWD Research Roundup >>Last week’s performance marked the third consecutive week in which both year-over-year and sequential advances were registered, the trend since a 2.8 percent sequential decline during the week ended June 7.Perhaps more significantly, it made for three consecutive weeks in which year-over-year sales were not only higher but in which the size of the sales increase was greater than the one that preceded it. Year-over-year sales rose 3 percent the week of June 7, followed by gains of 3.1 and 4.1 percent in the successive weeks leading up to last week’s strong showing.“Business was up sharply for most segments, especially at department stores, apparel stores, discounters and wholesale clubs,” said Michael Niemira, ICSC research consultant. “Gasoline prices — which impact consumer discretionary purchasing power — stayed flat, providing consumers the ability to spend their money elsewhere.”Gains within those channels were described as “hefty” while drug, dollar, electronics, office and furniture stores raked in “solid” increases, according to ICSC.Weather bore much of the blame for soft sales during the first third of the calendar year and was less than cooperative last week in an improving business climate. Temperatures were, on average, 2.8 degrees cooler than during the comparable week last year, although 1.1 degrees above their long-term average.ICSC continues to expect same-store sales among reporting retailers to rise 3.5 percent for June. Results will be reported on July 10.Niemira, who has been with ICSC as chief economist and director of research since 2003, has ended his full-time association with the organization. He will continue to provide commentary on weekly sales for the group and pursue other affiliations as well.

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