Despite a payroll tax bite that threatened to curb consumer spending, U.S. retailers reported strong sales in January. Still, these companies face difficult comparable numbers ahead — a headwind that could spark retail stocks to dip, one analyst told CNBC.
Overall, same-store sales rose 5.8 percent in January across 18 retailers, excluding drugstore chains Walgreen and Rite-Aid, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. But retailers could face an uphill battle in the coming months.
In an interview with CNBC's "Squawk on the Street," Brian Tunick, JPMorgan senior retail analyst, said the strong spring sales figures last year sparked by unseasonably warm weather will be tough to top.
"We think a lot of companies are going to give earnings guidance that could be meaningfully below the Street when they give Q1 and 2013 earnings," he added.
In 2012, some retailers' earnings were also helped by a 53rd week, a calendar boost that they won't have in 2013, Tunick said.
Dividing the retail calendar into 52 weeks of seven days each, or 364 days, leaves an extra day each year to be accounted for, according to the National Retail Federation. As a result every five to six years a week is added to the fiscal calendar.
"We think the earnings guidance is going to disappoint over the next couple of weeks so we're telling our investors, 'Be cautious. We think these stocks are going to pull back here another 5 to 10 percent potentially in the next couple of months,'" he said.
Although Tunick said companies will be watching for possible effects of the payroll tax hike, he thinks the impact will be offset by an increase in asset values, including home values.
"So we think some of that is going to offset the payroll tax, but in general, we're more concerned about just a very strong compare here for the spring season," he said. "The weather was just phenomenal. We had a lot of great spring selling. Color was very strong so we think that's going to be the issue."
—By CNBC.com's Katie Little; Follow on Twitter
JPMorgan Chase has an investment banking conflict with one or more of the following companies: Urban Outfitters, Gap, Buckle, Limited Brands, Coach, and Abercrombie & Fitch.