International News - US retail sales bear the brunt of conflict in Iraq

Retail sales in the US fell away sharply as war on Iraq began.

According to consultancy ShopperTrak, US retail sales dropped 14 per cent on the first day of war. Over the first four days sales fell by 10

per cent.

But big retailers have so far reported little or no effect since conflict with Iraq started.

Federated Department Stores warned that sales for the month will be lower than the expected 3 per cent to 4 per cent decline. However, it added that the drop is not as bad as had been feared.

Wal-Mart released a confident statement explaining that some shoppers have stayed at home to watch the coverage of the war, but that the impact has been minimal.

Information released by Wal-Mart suggests that some shoppers have been stocking up on goods that will store well. Sales of bottled water and canned meat have been particularly strong and the busiest regions have been the Northeast, Midwest and South central US.

Department store group JC Penney confirmed that some shoppers stayed at home. However, while monthly sales to date are slightly below plan, last week's figures were on track.

Target Corporation, which includes chains such as Mervyn's, Marshall Field's and Target, said same-store sales for the week ending last Saturday beat monthly projections.

- Darty, the French electronics chain owned by Kingfisher, reported that shopper numbers had fallen as war broke out. People have stayed at home to watch events on TV.