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Economy in Brief

U.S. Chain Store Sales Lose Earlier Momentum
by Tom Moeller March 24, 2009

February chain store sales may belatedly have benefited as Christmas gift cards were cashed in. Now, however the effects of higher unemployment seem to have taken hold. Store sales fell in three of the last four weeks and the decline left the March level roughly even with the February average level. The International Council of Shopping Centers-Goldman Sachs Index indicated that the weekly declines during three of the last four weeks ranged from -0.1% and -0.6%.

The ICSC-Goldman Sachs retail chain-store sales index is constructed using the same-store sales (stores open for one year) reported by 78 stores of seven retailers: Dayton Hudson, Federated, Kmart, May, J.C. Penney, Sears and Wal-Mart.

During the last ten years there has been a 64% correlation between the year-to-year growth in chain store sales and the growth in general merchandise sales. These weekly figures are available in Haver's SURVEYW database.

The outlook for sales, moreover, remains cautious. Though the weekly leading indicator of chain store sales from ICSC-Goldman Sachs rose 0.1% last week (-4.3% y/y) after the prior week's 0.3% gain, those increases made up little of February's 2.3% flop.

The latest Business Outlook Survey from the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia can be found here.

ICSC-UBS (SA, 1977=100) 03/21/09 03/14/09 Y/Y 2008 2007 2006
Total Weekly Chain Store Sales 481.3 483.4 -1.4% 1.4% 2.8% 3.3%
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