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Finding Winners In A Retail Rebound

The nation's clothing stores released their January sales figures this morningand a majority of the numbers that we’ve seen are coming in above expectations. Shoppers who redeemed their gift cards were a plus for Saks, Federated and Nordstrom. And, although frigid weather came late this year, it helped boost sales in outdoor apparel. So--will cash registers keep ringing, or are clothing retailers just waiting for the other shoe to drop?

A look at the S&P Retail Index shows it's up nearly 6% year to date. So far, the best numbers are coming from the teen retail sector.

Best reported January same store sales:

Company Actual Estimate
American Eagle 17.0% 10.9%
Zumiez 13.0% 8.4%
JW Nordstrom 11.1% 5.9%

John Morris, Senior Analyst with Wachovia Securities says we're in a favorable consumer environment right now, and Spring could bring some retail excitement. "I think you have a couple things going for these companies as you look at the Spring season," said Morris. "The Spring is more about color this year than last year. Last year a lot of the apparel stores were bathed in neutrals. This year you do have a pretty good color story going."

Dana Telsey, Chief Research Officer with the Telsey Advisory Group delved into the data further. "In today’s numbers we saw an overall stronger first half of January than second half of January, because the cold weather came at a time when a lot of the merchandise had been sold, and new Spring goods had arrived."

"The names you’re seeing do well today, are the company’s that had excess inventory," added Morris. "It was very clearance driven."

Then, how do you pick winners going forward?

"You want to look at companies that are doing well with their Spring product early on," he said. "We like companies with a strong brand who are doing something differently with their merchandising. We like Zumiezwhich is a teen retailer, very brand driven. And in the adult sector J. Crew, which has one of the strong brand recognition factors out there."

"I would agree on J Crew," said Telsey. "We happen to (also) like Nordstrom, and Federated. The best is getting better at Nordstrom and certainly Federated is taking advantage of larger economies of scale. (Federated has converted many regional department stores into Macy's.)

Here are charts of the three companies listed above who beat earnings expectations.

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ZUMZ
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JWN
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Analyst Note: Neither analyst owns stocks mentioned as stocks they "like."

Symbol
Price
 
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JWN
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.RLX
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ZUMZ
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