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Economy in Brief

Gains in Weekly Chain Store Sales Fade
by Tom Moeller June 19, 2009

Commentary has been offered regularly on about weekly chain store sales. That begs the question of how these figures differ from the monthly? The answer is that the weekly figures are based on a survey of sales taken by ICSC-Goldman Sachs while the monthly figures are based on reports directly from the retailers. And the tallies can differ. After the weekly figures are aggregated, during the last ten years there has been a not-perfect 73% correlation between the y/y change in the two series. Moreover, on a three-month basis that correlation shrinks to 14%. The one-month correlation is even smaller.

What the weekly figures indicate is that sales have lost their upward momentum. Weekly store sales declined in the latest period for the third week in the last five. The 0.6% decline lowered sales so far in June 0.5% below the May average after that month's 0.2% slip. Since the October '08 low, however, sales remained up by 2.3%. We'll have to wait and see whether these figures foreshadow a similar trend in the monthly report.

During the last ten years there has been a 69% correlation between the year-to-year growth in chain store sales and the growth in general merchandise sales. The weekly figures are available in Haver's SURVEYW database.

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.

Prospects for spending also seemed less than promising last week. Last week, the leading indicator of sales reversed all of the prior period's rise with a 0.7% decline. The decline lowered the indicator 0.4% from May and by 2.9% y/y.

ICSC-UBS (SA, 1977=100) 06/12/09 06/05/09 Y/Y 2008 2007 2006
Total Weekly Chain Store Sales 485.6 488.6 -1.5% 1.4% 2.8% 3.3%
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