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NEW YORK CITY-The Easter shift and warmer weather helped boost retail sales, with comparable-store sales rising 0.7% from April 2008, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers Chain Store Sales Index. But the industry shouldn’t break out the champagne just yet.

The Easter shift into April this year positively affected the industry by three percentage points over last year, as some companies reported much stronger sales than expected. However, the combined March-April period declined 1.4%, and without Wal-Mart’s 4% increase, the index would have reported a 2.7% drop.

“Either way, the April performance continued to be sluggish with some individualretailer bright spots,” wrote ICSC vice president, chief economist and director of research Michael P. Niemira.

Discounters once again dominated, posting a 4.7% rise, with drug stores posting a 4.6% increase. Target reported a 0.3% increase, while TJX saw a 3% increase. Walgreens posted a 5.7% increase, and Rite-Aid a 1.8% rise.

All other categories reported sales drops: Wholesale clubs saw a 6.7% drop (0.6% decrease when fuel is excluded). Apparel chain store comps dropped 2.7%, though some companies reported strong numbers: Cato and Ross saw comps rise 11% and 6%, respectively. The teen segment declined 6.9%. Department store sales again lagged, declining 10.5%, with luxury stores dropping 19.6%.

ICSC predicts that May sales will be flat to down 1% as the industry faces comparison with strong May 2008 sales, which had been fueled by tax rebates.

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