In common with their British cousins [WAMN: 31-Dec-01], US consumers are doing their patriotic duty and shopping for Old Glory. A late surge in bargain-hunting during the last week of December has boosted sales beyond expectations at several major US retailers.

The globe’s largest store group Wal-Mart reported “above plan” sales at comparable stores and said it remained on-track for its previously announced 4%-6% growth target.

There were also unaccustomed signs of cheer among department stores – the retail sector worst hit by the economic slowdown. Federated Department Stores, parent of Macy's and Bloomingdale's in New York, said sales in the fourth week of December were sufficiently robust to revise its forecast of an 11%-14% decline in monthly same-store sales to an eased loss of 9%-9.5%.

Across JC Penney's department stores a 5% increase on comparable sales for December is now expected, bettering the group’s earlier prediction of 3%-4%. JCP also reported that the previously weak menswear, women's accessories and jewellery sectors were the fourth week's strongest performers.

But the old proverb of swallows and summers will keep most analysts and economists on the edge of their seats until January 10 when the majority of US retailers report their full-month sales figures for December.

News source: Financial Times