WASHINGTON (MNI) – The following is the text of the weekly retail
sales report released by Johnson Redbook Tuesday, for the month-to-date
through the week-ended December 17:

The Johnson Redbook Retail Sales Index was up 3.4% in the third
week of December following a 2.9% gain the prior week. Month-to-date,
December was up 3.2% compared to December of last year (relative to a
target of a 3.6% gain). Month-over-month showed a 2.7% drop compared to
November (relative to a target of a 2.3% drop). December is a five-week
month on the retail calendar, ending on December 31st.

By the end of the week, retailers started gearing up for the
expected pre-Christmas rush, which includes an extra day this year. The
most positive development was a pickup in seasonal business as falling
temperatures stimulated sales of winter apparel and other cold weather
items. Seasonal sales may also have been lubricated by price reduction;
retailers have selectively marked down outerwear and other winter items,
in additional to preplanned promotional discounts. Sales were also
influenced by the beginning of Hanukkah on December 20th. For some, a
strong weekend was a favorable omen, however, most are withholding
judgment until the final two weeks are over.

** Market News International Washington Bureau (202) 371-2121 **