Retailers: high-end doing well, low-end cautious

The Westfield North County Mall in Escondido, Calif.
Sam Hodgson | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Retail trends: high-end doing well, low-end cautious and very promotional.

That's it, in a nutshell.

That story played out again today. In the higher end, Williams & Sonoma (WSM) did well, but Target (TGT) did not. And Sears (SHLD)...well Sears has its own particular issues.

Let's count down the high-end retailers that have reported good numbers so far: Nordstrom (JWN), Macy's (I count them in the higher end because of Bloomingdale's), Fossil (FOSL), Tumi (TUMI), Michael Kors (KORS) all had good quarters.

The one downside was Coach (COH), which is probably losing to KORS. Tiffany (TIF) will report next week.

The low- to mid-end of the market: Not enough income gains nor enough jobs growth. It's that simple.

What happened to Target? Traffic was down 1.3 percent, the fourth consecutive quarterly decline, and same-store sales, while up 0.9 percent, were still below the company's guidance of a one to two percent gain.

Slowing comparable-store trends and declining traffic? That is not good.

Target partly blamed Canada: This is its first foray outside the United States, and it is apparently rockier than they anticipated.

Regardless: Target seem unwilling to get more promotional--which would help sales--likely because it fears loss of profitability.

There's another issue. Target is still struggling with the same problems in the low- to mid-end space, but on top of that there is no buzz around Target any more. It is selling home furnishings, but that's part of a national trend.

Companies have life spans...they got hot, and then they lose it. And they need refreshes. Look at Home Depot (HD) or McDonald's (MCD), both of which were out of favor for years, but turned around on new management, new vision, new products.

Target needs a refresh.

Then there's Sears. Still a big loss, and same-store sales were down 3.1 percent. According to Ken Perkins at RetailMetrics this was the 14th straight quarterly sales decline!

Widening losses, declining sales. Yikes! Sears hasn't invested in the stores, we know that. But it's worse than that: We are in an environment where Sears should be selling more big-ticket items--more appliances, more hardware, more automotive stuff.

But Sears isn't! Instead, the company's competitors are the ones doing well. Whirlpool (WHR) is selling more appliances, but Sears isn't.

By CNBC's Bob Pisani