Maudlin Month of March

According to ICSC's data, released this morning, chain stores suffered through their worst March since 1995 with same-store sales falling 0.5 percent (membership req.)

Easter was April 8 last year and March 23 this year. The report suggests that a lot of Easter sales will be pushed into April this year because of the shift. I'm not sure I understand that. Wouldn't the sales have been earlier because of the earlier date of Easter? Shouldn't have March been stronger, not weaker?

Last year's extremely strong March--when same-store sales rose 5.9 percent compared with March 2006--was attributed to Easter moving from April 16 to April 8, which moved more Easter related sales into March. Subsequently, in April 2007, same-store sales plummeted 2.4 percent compared with April 2006. That made April 2007 the worst month in ICSC's database, which goes back to 1970. Again, the results were attributed to the earlier date of Easter, which pushed more Easter sales into March from April.

But now this year we're told an even earlier Easter will mean that sales will get pushed back into April? I don't think I understand the logic. Regardless of the cause, that makes four extremely weak months in a row. Same-store sales rose 0.7 percent in December, 0.5 percent in January, 1.9 percent in February and then fell 0.5 percent in March. Ugh.

It should also be noted that fewer and fewer companies are participating in this. Only 37 retailers are part of this month's index. In January 2007 there were 57 firms. I'm not sure what to make of that. Would inclusion of the firms that pulled out drag the numbers down further or help them?

Anyway, The Street has an interesting little video up questioning that excuse.

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