Retail sales in April fell 0.4 percent (±0.5%) from March and were 10.1 percent below April 2008—a worse drop that analysts had expected. Meanwhile, same-store sales rose, in part because of the Easter Shift. Retail Forward's tally of 35 retailers, meanwhile, showed a cumulative 0.9 percent rise in same-store sales compared with April of last year. ICSC's data, which looks at 32 retailers (pdf., m'bship required), showed a 0.7 percent rise in same-store sales. However, Wal-Mart announced it would stop reporting monthly same-store sales figures, shedding doubt on the future of the metric. In other Wal-Mart news, the chain is having some good results with its Supermercado concept.

In more positive news, the AIA Billings Index showed signs of recovery.

Convenience stores have proved resilient during the economic downturn, according to Supermarket News.

Empty stores are increasingly being used as advertising space.

William Ackman held a town hall meeting to introduce his proposed slate of directors for Target's to the media. Most questions at the event, however, centered on Ackman himself. In other news for the chain, it opened a pop-up store in Chicago.

Eddie Bauer is said to be in talks with potential buyers.

Rosetta Stone opened its first mall-based store.

J.Crew has a new concept J.Crew-at-the-Beach, which it is giving a test drive in Malibu.

One beneficiary of Circuit City's demise has been P.C. Richard & Son.

Retail asking rents are down 11 percent in New York City.

Starbucks is using coupons at supermarkets to boost sales. It also is trying to grow its lower-price concept, Seattle's Best Coffee.

Filene's Basement has new owners that have upscale aspirations for the chain.

Sears has been staffing up its real estate department in recent months.

For updates like this and much more, follow Retail Traffic on Twitter.

Store Closure Update

Things were quiet for a while on the store closure front. But last week Jones Apparel Group said it would shutter 225 stores. In more positive news, however, C&S Wholesale Grocers won an auction and will buy all 56 Bruno's locations. Bruno's had previously filed for Chapter 11 and it was possible there could have been store closures there. But C&S says it plans to keep all the locations open.

So where does this leave us for the year? According to our math, there have been 2,802 announced closures and an additional 1,376 locations operated by retailers currently in bankruptcy protection. That more or less matches what ICSC recently reported. In a research note (go here to view), ICSC says retailers announced 2,284 closures in the first quarter. The projection is for 4,600 for the year--less than the 6,913 that closed in 2008 and close to the 2007 numbers.

For its part, CoStar also puts together an extensive look at closures periodically. In one published last week, CoStar found major U.S. retailers closed nearly 7,000 stores while opening approximately 5,700 new locations in 2008 resulting in a net loss of more than 1,000 stores for the year. CoStar expects similar numbers in 2009. So far, CoStar is seeing 3,968 projected openings in 2009 and 3,591 projected closings. That would be a net gain of 377 stores. (CoStar has an excel spreadsheet you can download of more extensive results.)

In the end, it seems that 2009 is playing out like 2008. There were some thoughts that store closures could double in 2009 compared with what we saw last year. But we're not quite at that pace. Historically, most closures are announced in the first quarter. This is because weak retailers often close shop after poor holiday shopping seasons. So for store closures to double in 2009 we would have had to have seen twice as many announcements as we did. The thing to watch going forward is whether the pace of closings stays slow--as it has been in recent weeks--or whether we hit another patch like we had early in the year where it seemed like we got a new big announcement each day. If the pace of closings accelerates, that would be a very bad sign.

Potential Bankruptcies & Liquidation Impact: 1,362 confirmed closures out of about 2,738 stores

Announced Closings

Total Closings: up to 1,440 U.S. stores

Potential Impact of All Announcements to Date: 2,802 closures out of up to 4,178 potentially affected U.S. stores