Retail Sales Hit and Miss the Holiday Mark

It was a very merry mixed Christmas for retailers. The industry reported an overall increase in comparable store sales, but many companies also missed estimates or provided a gloomy guidance for the recent quarter.

With factors such as high unemployment, falling wages and fiscal cliff fears, the economy has been taking a toll on consumers. However, the 17 retailers tracked by Thomson Reuters posted a 4.5 percent overall gain in same-store sales growth for December, beating expectations of 3.3 percent. In comparison, growth was 4.2 percent in the prior year.

“It was a very complicated month, with all sorts of events that threatened fragile expectations,” said Barbara Kahn, marketing professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, according to WSJ. “Online was a saving grace for some of the retailers as people shift in that direction.”

Costco Wholesale (NASDAQ:COST) was one of the strongest performers in the holiday season. The company reported same-store sales growth of 9 percent. The December reporting period included an extra day compared to the prior year and positively impacted total sales by 2 percent. However, Costco still beat expectations of 6.5 percent growth.

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Other retailers such as Gap (NYSE:GPS), Ross Stores (NASDAQ:ROST) and Macy’s (NYSE:M) also beat estimates…