By  on January 7, 2011


• MONTH OF THE MISS: More than half the stores tracked by Thomson Reuters — 51.9 percent — fell short of analysts’ expectations last month, with three specialty store firms (American Eagle Outfitters, Gap and Wet Seal) posting the largest shortfalls. Apparel chains cumulatively logged the lowest median increase, 1.3 percent, while department stores registered the highest, at 4.7 percent. The median increase was 3.1 percent versus the 3.4 percent expected.

• UPSCALE SURGE: Department stores generally did well, and the upscale component of the group — Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus — had the first, second and fourth biggest increases within the sector, with Dillard’s sneaking in as number three. Bon-Ton kept the group in unanimously positive territory, eking out a 0.1 percent gain.

• BUCKLE UP: The Buckle appears to have regained its footing, posting a 6.1 percent comp gain that beat expectations. Meanwhile, Zumiez had the second best performance among the specialists, but with a 9.2 percent advance that fell well short of the 11.5 percent gain expected, with unfortunate consequences on Thursday for its stock (down 8.5 percent). Abercrombie & Fitch led all reporting retailers with a 15 percent leap, well ahead of the 10.7 percent tally expected.

• OFF-PRICE ON THE MARK: Up against the toughest year-ago comparisons of any stores, off-pricers TJX and Ross plowed ahead with increases of 2 percent and 4 percent, respectively, and both raised earnings guidance.

• ALIBI ALLEY: “We got slammed by the weather” is acceptable. “It’s not that important a month” is not.

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