Dillard’s key sales figure drops 7 percent in Dec.

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Dillard’s Inc. said Thursday that sales in its department stores open at least a year declined 7 percent last month, hurt by weaker sales in the West and in products for the home.

That was worse than the Little Rock., Ark., chain’s 5 percent decline in December 2008.

Sales at stores open at least a year are a key indicator of retailer performance since they measure growth at existing stores rather than newly opened ones.

Dillard’s said total sales fell 8 percent to $1.01 billion during the five-week period ended Jan. 2. The company said sales were above average in the eastern region of the U.S. and shoe sales performed significantly better than other categories. Sales in the central U.S. were slightly below the company’s average, while weak sales in the West and in the home products department weighed down total results.

In the 48 weeks of the retailer’s fiscal year to date, sales in stores open at least a year fell 11 percent. Total sales fell 13 percent to $5.54 billion.