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ICSC: Chain stores saw gains in April

Bargain-hunting shoppers ruled the market in April, according to sales figures released this week. The International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) said U.S. chain store sales rose by 3.6 percent on a year-over-year, same-store basis, and discount retailers beat earlier estimates.

"Although the economic headwinds remain brisk, April year-over-year retail chain store sales got a lift of 200 to 250 basis points due to the shifting Easter date, which resulted in an extra Sunday of sales in April 2008 versus April 2007," said Michael P. Niemira, ICSC's chief economist and director of research.

"In addition, there was some modest pent-up demand with more seasonable weather early in the month, along with some increased promotional activity, which helped to explain the strongest monthly performance in more than a year.”

Wal-Mart reported that same-store sales rose 3.2 percent, beating an earlier forecast. Same-store sales rose 3.1 percent at Target and a healthy 8 percent at warehouse club retailer Costco.

“We are of course benefiting from some inflation on the food side,” Costco said in a statement, “as a result of the recent run-up in the cost of commodities and the continued run-up in the price of oil and gasoline.”