US: Redbook


Tue Jan 27 07:55:00 CST 2015

Actual Previous
Store Sales Y/Y change 3.2% 3.0%

Highlights
Store sales in Redbook's sample continue to slow, to a year-on-year same-store plus 3.2 percent in the January 24 week for the lowest rate since way back in July. Redbook cites weather as a factor though the cold did lift sales of winter goods which, however, are now largely on discount and not a plus for margins. Month-to-month, Redbook's sample is pointing to a major decline of more than 3 percent for a strongly negative indication on January's ex-auto ex-gas reading in the government's retail sales report, a reading that in December fell a very disappointing 0.3 percent.

Definition
A weekly measure of comparable store sales at chain stores, discounters, and department stores. It is a less consistent indicator of retail sales than the weekly ICSC-Goldman index. It is also calculated differently than other indicators. For instance, figures for the first week of the month are compared with the average for the entire previous month. When two weeks are available, then these are compared with the average for the previous month, and so on through the month. It might be more useful to compare year-over-year figures since these are indeed compared to the comparable week a year ago. This index is correlated with the general merchandise portion of retail sales covering about 10 percent of total retail sales.

Description
Consumer spending accounts for two-thirds of the economy, so if you know what consumers are up to, you'll have a pretty good handle on where the economy is headed. Needless to say, that's a big advantage for investors.

The pattern in consumer spending is often the foremost influence on stock and bond markets. For stocks, strong economic growth translates to healthy corporate profits and higher stock prices. For bonds, the focus is whether economic growth goes overboard and leads to inflation. Ideally, the economy walks that fine line between strong growth and excessive (inflationary) growth. This balance was achieved through much of the nineties. For this reason alone, investors in the stock and bond markets enjoyed huge gains during the bull market of the 1990s. Spending at major retail chains did slow down in tandem with the equity market in 2000 and during the 2001 recession. Sales weakened again in 2008 due to the credit crunch and recession.

The Redbook is one of the more timely indicators of consumer spending, since it is reported every week. It gets extra attention around the holiday season when retailers make most of their profits. It is also a useful indicator when special factors can cause economic activity to momentarily slide. For instance, it was widely watched in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita which hit New Orleans and the Gulf Coast in 2005 and again when Hurricanes Irene and Sandy hit the East Coast in 2011 and 2012.