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    Redbook: Chain Store Sales Decline in Latest Weekly Report

    NEW YORK - Sales at U.S. chain stores fell for most of March as consumers stayed close to home and away from malls to watch the evolving war in Iraq, according to a Reuters report.

    NEW YORK - Sales at U.S. chain stores fell for most of March as consumers stayed close to home and away from malls to watch the evolving war in Iraq, according to a Reuters report.

    Chain store sales fell 1.7 percent in the four weeks ended March 29 compared to the same period during the prior month, according to Instinet Research's weekly Redbook report. For the week ending March 29 compared to the last year, sales fell 2.8 percent.

    Retailers partly blamed tough comparisons to the prior month a year ago, when Easter-related shopping boosted sales.

    But as noted in the findings from a consumer study released last week by The NPD Group, some retailers are seeing an increase in purchases of "feel-good" items like cosmetics and accessories, assumed to be in response to consumer reactions to ongoing hostilities in Iraq.

    The Redbook Average is compiled from a sample of general merchandise retailers representing about 9,000 stores. Instinet Research, a division of Instinet, a Reuters-owned electronic brokerage firm, releases the index weekly.

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