- The latest figures on retail sales don't necessarily paint a complete picture of what's happening in the sector, two former CEOs say.
- For Jerry Storch, former Toys R Us CEO, it illustrates a divergence. "The gap between the winners and the losers is growing."
- Steve Sadove, former CEO of Saks Fifth Avenue, thinks overall retail is healthy.
The latest figures on retail sales don't necessarily paint a complete picture of what's happening in the sector, two former CEOs told CNBC on Monday.
U.S. retail sales unexpectedly rose in January, climbing 0.2 percent, according to the Commerce Department. However, data for December was revised down to show retail sales tumbling 1.6 percent instead of the 1.2 percent previously reported.
For Jerry Storch, former CEO of Toys R Us, it illustrates the divergence in the industry. While a number of companies have gone out of business or closed stores, results from big retailers like Walmart, Target, Costco and Amazon have been "superb."
"The gap between the winners and the losers is growing," he said on "The Exchange."
"If you are winner, you are doing great and we've seen some spectacular numbers where people have made the investment they had to make and they are growing. The losers, they are in big trouble. They are going out of business. They are closing stores. A whole different world," added Storch, who is also a former CEO of Hudson's Bay, the parent company of Lord & Taylor and Saks Fifth Avenue.
While the numbers from the government were down for December, Mastercard SpendingPulse showed growth in the 4 percent range through the holidays, said Steve Sadove, former CEO Saks Fifth Avenue and a senior advisor for Mastercard.
He believes overall retail is "very healthy."
"Look at the earnings that we saw out of the retailers — whether it was the Walmarts, the Targets, from high to low — you saw some pretty healthy numbers, so I think you have a good consumer right now," he said on "Power Lunch."
Consumer confidence, as measured by the Conference Board research firm, fell in November and December, as stocks tanked, as well as in January, thanks to uncertainty about the partial government shutdown. However, it rebounded in February.
Storch is also feeling positive.
"The consumer was incredibly strong last year. There's no doubt there's been some weakening but she's still there and she's still shopping," he said.
— CNBC's Stefanie Kratter and Reuters contributed to this report.