Some retailers are already looking past the mistletoe and eggnog, promoting their after-Christmas sales before shoppers even unwrap their gifts. Gap's Old Navy sent out email alerts that its after-holiday sales started Sunday, offering up to 75 percent off throughout the store. L Brands' Victoria's Secret also kicked off its semiannual sale online Monday.
Many analysts had predicted aggressive sales would continue in the post-holiday environment to snag extra transactions and round out solid December numbers.
"We expect the final two weeks of the month to be more promotional than most companies expected," Lejuez said.
It's not all bad
Online shopping has continued to be the bright spot in a challenging season. Analytics firm comScore last week said that as of Wednesday,10 days this season had eclipsed $1 billion in online spending.
Although those figures will not salvage sales for all brick-and-mortar retailers, SW Retail Advisors President Stacey Widlitz said physical stores with a strong online presence, such as Macy's, will be able to make up for weakness at the mall.
Retailers with a small Web operation will have a problem, she said. "They'll be stuck with extra inventories they have to clear."
(Read more: Retailers make last-ditch efforts)
Macy's; TJX; fast-fashion names such as H&M; and Gap, which saw increased traffic because of effective promotions, are emerging as the season's winners, said Dana Telsey, CEO of Telsey Advisory Group.
Greenberger said Michael Kors remains one of the strongest names and that aggressive promotions across key divisions at Limited Brands and Gap could lead to a solid December for those companies.
Joe Feldman at Telsey Advisory Group said Best Buy and GameStop should also post strong numbers.
"I think the video game console cycle is certainly helping, but there's demand for smartphones, for tablets, for TVs—everything related to that," he said.
On the flip side, Greenberger said heavy discounting at Chico's did not appear to resonate as well with shoppers.
Lejuez at Wells Fargo said the teen retail sector continued to suffer. American Eagle and Abercrombie's Hollister performed better than Aéropostale, he said, but added that "better is only a relative term."
What's more, although J.C. Penney did get some action from its doorbuster promotions, Lejuez said the company's November same-store sales increase of 10 percent is likely as good as it will get in its fiscal fourth quarter.
Things are also tough at Target. Telsey said the retailer was seeing a reaction to its revelation last week that a data breach had involved the information of more than 40 million credit and debit card accounts used in its stores.
"It had to give Wal-Mart an advantage," she said.
—By CNBC's Krystina Gustafson. Follow her on Twitter @KrystinaGustafs. CNBC's Patti Domm and Nikole Yinger contributed to this report.