ICSC reports 4.9% rise in U.S. retail sales

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Warmer weather spurred a 4.9 percent rise in U.S. retail sales last week, the biggest gain in two months, as consumers snapped up clothing and holiday foods for Easter and Passover.

Sales at U.S. retailers rose 0.3 percent over the past week, after edging up 0.2 percent the week before, in the International Council of Shopping Centers report for the seven days ended March 31.An early Easter this year is boosting March sales at the expense of April, the group said.

“With Easter fast approaching and the continuation of warmer weather, consumers have had the motivation to spend,'' Michael Niemira, ICSC's chief economist and director of research, said in a statement.

March sales will probably increase as much as 5 percent, the group said. Easter falls on April 8, compared with April 16 last year, driving purchases of gifts, candy, flowers and other holiday items in March instead of April.

“In the run-up to Easter, consumables, apparel and toys, along with early lawn and garden products, typically benefit,'' wrote Michelle Tan, a New York-based analyst with UBS.

The ICSC, a New York-based trade group, and UBS, an investment bank, track sales at about 60 chains. The survey collects data from stores open at least a year, a measurement known as same-store sales.

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