Despite some strengthening Friday, retail stocks fell 1.3 percent last week when the Federal Reserve pointed to signs of economic improvement, but said businesses were “reluctant” to hire and reports from credit card issuers showed shoppers were struggling to pay off their bills.

This story first appeared in the December 21, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The S&P Retail Index rose 0.1 percent, or 0.36 points, Friday to close at 407.08. The Dow Jones Industrial Average inched up 0.2 percent, or 20.63 points, to 10,328.89 Friday, turning in a decline of 1.4 percent for the week.

Zale Corp. had one of retailing’s more dramatic moves, falling 17.8 percent to $2.08 Friday in trading on the New York Stock Exchange after published reports indicated the company had cut orders in the wake of an 18.6 percent drop in November comparable-store sales.

“We are in the process of reviewing and canceling certain orders related to our November sales,” said David Sternblitz, Zale’s vice president and treasurer. “There has been some delay in payment as we determine what merchandise will be needed for the season and what should be returned to suppliers. Many of our contractual agreements with suppliers allow for the return of a percentage of merchandise.”

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