One factor that could be hurting toy retailers is the recalls of Chinese-made toys this year. According to Beemer, some of the beneficiaries have been bike manufacturers. Bicycles, dolls and motorized cars are all toys that have been selling well, he said.
Another bright spot has been online. According to Comscore, it appears sales over the Internet are up 18% from a year ago. That’s a bit weaker than last year when online sales surged 24%, Comscore said.
"My conclusion is there is a bit more concern on the part of consumers in their spending behavior this season," said Gian Fuglioni, Comscore Chairman.
Still, investors will be looking for some hard numbers to confirm whether consumers are really behaving as they say they are.
Citigroup analyst Debra Weinswig expects the retailers she covers, which include discounters Wal-Mart and Target; department stores such as Macy’sand J.C. Penney’s; and warehouse stores Costcoand BJ’s Wholesale, as a group, to deliver “on- to above-plan” same-store sales in November. Weinswig’s expectations are driven by the arrival of chillier weather and a favorable shift in the calendar, which will help flatter sales this month.
As the reports come out, Weinswig will be looking to determine how strong sales were on Black Friday and Cyber Monday; the magnitude of the benefit from the calendar shift, and what inventory levels were at the end of the month.
"On Black Friday, consumer flocked to stores early in search of doorbusters, but kept their purchases selective," Weinswig said. "Based on their early read, we expect this Holiday season to be challenging and highly promotional."
Meanwhile, Citigroup analyst Kimberly Greenberger expects specialty retailers such as Ann Taylor,Children’s Place, J. Crew andUrban Outfittersto benefit from pent-up demand for apparel created by weak sales in September and October.
This is despite Greenberger’s expectation that traffic at the mall is down about 2% from last November. Still, this is an improvement over November, when traffic fell 5%.
As for the holiday, Greenberger expects a "solid" season.
"We believe consumers remain resilient when there is a purpose at hand (as shown by strong sales during the Easter and Back-to-School periods), likely benefiting traffic and sales in December," she said.
Another factor that could help November sales, although on a more limited basis, is the timing of Hanukkah, which comes 11 days earlier than last year.
According to Thomson Financial, Saks, Target,Bon-Ton, Zumiez, and Macy’sare expected to post the largest percentage gains in their November sales. Meanwhile, Sharper Image, Chico’s FAS, Hot Topic,Wet Sealand SteinMart, will see the steepest declines in their results.
But with all eyes on the holiday, retailer’s comments on how December sales are shaping up may be more important than the actual same-store sales reports for November, according to Niemira.
"That part of the equation is probably far more important," he said.
Christina Cheddar Berk is a News Editor at CNBC.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.