Retail Sales Growth Challenges Ahead: Analyst

Despite poor weather and some consumer spending headwinds, retail same-store sales gained momentum as February progressed. Still, one analyst has misgivings about the near future.

"The next three to six months, the first half of 2013, is challenging for same-store sales gains — low single-digits at best is going to be what it's all about," said Dana Telsey, chief executive of Telsey Advisory Group.

Several companies, including discount retailers Wal-Mart and Target, have already warned that they saw some consumer spending weakness in early February. Rising gas prices, delayed tax refunds and an increase in payroll taxes have combined to stall some consumers' shopping.

Unseasonable weather following three years of warm Januarys and Februarys was another headwind for retailers, said Richard Jaffe, an analyst at Stifel Nicolaus. As the weather improved, sales momentum began to perk up, analysts said.

"No question, the more moderate-income consumer, the Wal-Mart consumer, for example, is more impacted by the tax issues we just discussed," Jaffe said. "The more affluent consumer has been able to sail through February pretty much unscathed, and we saw that in the more affluent retail chains, Nordstrom for example."

Telsey told CNBC's "Squawk on the Street" that it's going to take some time for consumers to adjust to rising payroll taxes, but they will adjust.

Although the majority of retailers reported better-than-expected sales figures in February, the numbers don't give as much insight into the industry as previous months' reports have. Several major retailers stopped releasing their monthly figures this month, including Target, Nordstrom, Kohl's and Macy's.

"They were helpful," Jaffe said. "They're gone, and it puts a little more of a premium on our boots-on-the-ground research."

For investors searching for value, Telsey suggested looking to handbag and accessories luxury retailer Coach. The company's stock has suffered this year on concerns about its foothold in the U.S. market.

"It is a value play," she said. "I think we're seeing a lot of value investors become interested in it with nearly $8 a share in cash, a balance sheet that's very strong, the potential for China to accelerate. It helps to offset some of the weakness and changes that are going on in North America."

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— Written by CNBC's Katie Little. Follow her on Twitter @katie_little_


Disclosure information was not available for Dana Telsey or Richard Jaffe.