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SpendingPulse: Retail sales up in February

BY DSN STAFF

NEW YORK — Retail sales in February rose in most categories, despite winter storms and rising gas prices, according to MasterCard Advisors’ SpendingPulse.

The increase maintained the positive performance that began in fall 2010, but February’s year-over-year growth rates were smaller in most categories than those recorded in the November 2010 through January 2011 period.

“February held onto the momentum from the last few months," said Michael McNamara, VP research and analysis at SpendingPulse. "Ongoing strong performance by the financial markets and growing consumer confidence may have contributed to ongoing retail growth, especially in the upper tier of the different categories. This is even in the face of the disruptive weather that put a damper on spending in several sectors.”

McNamara said that if gas prices continue to rise — the national average gasoline price passed the $3.15 mark last month for the first time since 2008 — it could put a damper on spending. "That’s one of the things on the watch list," he said.

Online sales rose 13.2%, continuing to outpace physical store sales. Higher gas prices actually could help online sales, McNamara said, if more people decide to shop at home.

The International Council of Shopping Centers expected revenue in stores open at least one year to rise 2.5% to 3% industrywide. "February has definitely been a rollercoaster ride for retailers as weekly sales continue to bounce back and forth," said Michael Niemira, ICSC VP research and chief economist, in a note last week.

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Grocery gains again fuel Target’s comp growth

BY DSN STAFF

MINNEAPOLIS — February same-store sales at Target advanced 1.8%, thanks to the addition of fresh food and consumables that are part of an aggressive remodeling program causing more people to shop its stores.

The company said more than half of its February same-store sales gain were driven by an increase in transactions combined with a small increase in the average transaction size. The 1.8% gain comes on top of a 2.4% increase in February 2010.

The strongest performance came in the grocery category, where comps increased in the low teens, while health care, beauty and other household essentials experienced gains in the mid- to upper-single digits range. Also showing strength was the apparel category, where comps increased in the low- to mid-single digits range.

“Target’s February comparable-store sales were in line with our expectations, as our REDcard Rewards and PFresh remodel programs continue to drive meaningful incremental sales and traffic in our stores,” said Target chairman, president and CEO Gregg Steinhafel.

The rewards program was launched last fall at stores nationwide and offers those who use Target-branded credit and debit cards 5% off all purchases. The PFresh program is an ambitious store-remodeling effort that has as its signature component the addition of fresh foods and an expanded dry grocery and consumables offerings to existing Target discount stores.

A 1.8% comp isn’t exactly a home run though, and Target did report weakness in other areas. Hardlines decreased in the upper-single digits range, and the home category, a traditional strength at Target, declined in the low- to mid-single digits range.

Looking ahead to March, the company noted the late arrival of Easter this year will cause sales to shift to April and will cause March comps to decline in the mid- to upper-single digits range. Conversely, April results are forecasted to benefit and be in the mid-teens. The blended same-store sales performance for the two months is forecasted in low-single digits territory.

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The latest ‘Shape’ DVD: ‘400-Calorie Fat Blast’

BY Allison Cerra

NEW YORK — Gaiam on Wednesday said it released the latest fitness DVD developed by Shape magazine, starring Olympic gold medalist Summer Sanders.

"400-Calorie Fat Blast" includes three 15-minute workouts, which are interval training-based workouts that blend multiple toning techniques with a strong cardio component, Gaiam said.

Also included in the DVD is a link to a bonus digital download, "The Quick Ab Flatteners Workout," which is designed to target the entire core with a variety of exercises that are done in quick, timed intervals.

The "400-Calorie Fat Blast" DVD will be available on Amazon.com and wherever DVDs are sold.

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