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Retail post best day since Nov. 22, lifted by Fred's and L Brands

Izabel Goulart walks the runway during the 2015 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show.
Adam Jeffery | CNBC
Izabel Goulart walks the runway during the 2015 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show.

Retail stocks recorded their best day since Nov. 22 on Thursday, boosted by significant gains in Victoria's Secret's parent company L Brands and bargain outlet Fred's.

The S&P Retail ETF (XRT) gained 2.03 percent, while shares of L Brands climbed 11.02 percent and Fred's stock skyrocketed 13.86 percent. Other retailers including Zumiez, Buckle and Rent-A-Center also saw their stock rise.

L Brands said same-store sales fell 10 percent in March, more than a StreetAccount estimate of an 8.9 percent decline. L Brands added, however, its sales were negatively affected by 2 to 3 points by the late coming of Easter this year.

Victoria's Secret has been trying to adjust its business model of late by discontinuing swimwear and most of its apparel merchandise and by eliminating print catalogs.

Fred's, meanwhile, reported a fourth-quarter loss on Thursday that was smaller than analysts polled by Thomson Reuters had expected. The retailer had its best day in December, when shares climbed more then 80 percent on news that Fred's would buy stores from Rite Aid as part of the Walgreen's Boots Alliance and Rite Aid merger.

Thursday's performance marks a minor turnaround for retail stocks, in what's been a difficult 12 months for the sector. The S&P Retail ETF has lost more than 8 percent from one year ago and is down nearly 6 percent year to date.

XRT 1-year performance 

Source: FactSet

— CNBC's Gina Francolla contributed to this report.