NEW YORK – Retail sales grew 4.6% in the week ended March 31, after a 3.8% rise the week before, according to the weekly retail sales report released by Johnson Redbook Tuesday.

March sales gained 3.6% compared to March 2011 (a 3.3% increase was expected), and rose 0.7% from February (target 0.4% gain).

“Easter related purchases as well as favorable weather drove up demand for apparel, footwear and Easter seasonal goods,” according to the report. “Most retailers were satisfied with customer response to spring merchandise across both hard lines and soft lines and ended March ahead of plan. As previously noted, the growth rate for March reflects an upward bias from the earlier placement of Easter this year. April is expected to show a corresponding downward bias. Retailers recommend withholding judgment on the season until the end of this month, when March and April can be assessed as a single accounting unit. Looking forward, our preliminary target for April is for year over year same store growth of 3.4%; this would represent a month-over-month change versus March of 0.1%. This target will be finalized in next week's report.”

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