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NEW YORK CITY-March same-store sales were down 0.5% since the same month in 2007, the lowest drop in comparables since April 2007, which saw a 1.9% dip in year over year sales, according to a monthly International Council of Shopping Centers survey. Most retailers blame the loss on a shift in Easter from April to March this year, as well as March having one less shopping day compared to 2007. Notwithstanding Easter, however, the dip this March was the worst for the month since 1995, which saw a 0.8% drop from the year before.

According to the survey, just a few standards such as food, front-end drug stores and off-price retailers had strong numbers in March. “The majority of the industry was weak,” according to an ICSC report. For the month, apparel-specialty chain store sales, on a same-store basis, fell 11.2% year over year, with Chico’s FAS dropping 20.7% and the Gap down 18%.

Department-store sales were off by 8.2%, and luxury-department-store business was down 5.3%, with Kohl’s dropping 15.5% and J.C. Penney down 12.3$. Discount-store sales fell 0.3%, with both Family Dollar and Target dropping 4.4%, but Wal-Mart moving up 0.9%, the report said.

Drugstores and wholesale clubs were the only winners, posting 4% and 5.1% gains, respectively. Walgreens posted a 4.4% hike in same-store sales, while Costco saw a 7% raise, giving rise to the theory that people only want to make short store trips, or to buy in bulk, in the troubled economy.

The Easter shift is expected to boost the year-over-year comp sales for April by 2% to 2.5%, though record-high gasoline prices and economic distress may curb consumer discretionary spending, the ICSC report says.

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