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    Bolstered by strong President’s Day weekend sales promotions, America’s retail community finally began to see a turnaround in February from sagging sales numbers.

    Deep President’s Day sale discounts attracted consumers to release significant pent up demand for products they have delayed purchasing because of the rough economic times. The harsher-than-normal weather experienced by most of the country during February also drove sales. Shoppers interviewed for America’s Research Group/UBS Consumer Mind Reader survey reported they had escaped from the worse-than-normal winter weather to take advantage of retail bargains in February. In all, two-thirds of the retail categories we study for the survey showed improvement over a year ago in both average purchases and number of shoppers. Given the numbers we’ve been seeing now for well over a year, that is a huge turnaround. Those categories benefiting most from the February retail bonanza included major department stores and jewelry stores, which continued their upward trend. The wicked winter weather no doubt helped boost outlet mall and factory outlet store sales by giving consumers multiple retail opportunities at the same location.

    The most dramatic example of the retail turnaround can be seen with major department stores. President’s Day sales offering deep discounts on brand-name merchandise gave this category an almost incredible sales month. Twice as many consumers told us they made purchases at major department stores during the month than reported shopping the stores a year ago. They were also in the mood to spend, doubling the amount they had spent a year ago.

    Among the retailers not experiencing a retail comeback were membership warehouse clubs, furniture stores and catalog retailers. All saw less traffic and depressed sales from a year ago. February was a huge month for the bulk of the retail industry. There’s no question about it. It may have salvaged some retailers who had been on the brink of collapse. But even as good as it was, the crowds and spending levels at even the most successful stores was well below those from two years ago. Many shoppers are still wary of spending more than absolutely necessary right now, until they see proof positive of the economic recovery.

    Britt Beemer, founder and chairman of America’s Research Group, is the country’s leading authority on retail buying habits of consumers. ARG tracks consumer buying habits more than any other survey research firm in the nation. The company conducts customized surveys for retail and manufacturing clients across the United States, designed to provide clients valuable marketing recommendations to grow their businesses. . Beemer is author of two best-selling business books, Predatory Marketing and It Takes a Prophet to Make a Profit. His third business book, entitled The Customer Rules, is available at bookstores nationwide. More detailed information is available on the America’s Research Group website at www.americasresearchgroup.com. UBS Global Equity Research provides the broad global perspective and in-depth analysis that institutional investors need to make good investment decisions. With more than 600 analysts, associates, strategists and economists in EMEA, APAC and the Americas, UBS covers approximately 85% of the world market capitalization - over 3,300 companies worldwide across 46 different markets. In addition to UBS's disciplined fundamental research, clients also rely on UBS for corporate and expert access to give them the insight they need, when they need it.