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Retail Sales Up for Week

Promotions and hints of pent-up demand lift ICSC index.

Retail sales rose on both a sequential and year-on-year basis last week as promotions led consumers to pick up the pace of purchasing, particularly in department stores and online.

The International Council of Shopping Centers and Goldman Sachs reported that chain-store sales during the week ended Saturday rose 0.3 percent from the prior week and 1.5 percent over the comparable week in 2013.

“As retailers faced more adverse weather over the prior weeks, they stepped up their promotional activity during the past week, which helped sales at some retailers, such as department stores,” said Michael Niemira, vice president of research and chief economist at ICSC.

Department stores, wholesale clubs and e-commerce retailers registered stronger results, ICSC said, while the survey found a “sharp slowing” at specialty, discount and dollar stores, among others. “Need-driven sales,” as opposed to those of the more discretionary variety, figured prominently in the improvement.

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Research conducted by the ICSC and SaleTally found promotions at department and specialty stores about 13 percent higher than in the year-ago week as retailers looked to combat both challenging weather conditions in much of the country and consumer reticence.

Niemira said that the promotions, many in response to weather that limited traffic in prior weeks, helped business. The ICSC trimmed its estimates for February sales about a half percentage point, to an increase of about 3 percent.

“Easy year-ago comparisons should still dominate the February reports,” he added.

Retailers including Gap Inc. and L Brands Inc. will report their comparable sales results for last month on Thursday.