Retail Winners Rise to the Top

 | Dec 01, 2011 | 10:35 AM EST
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Executers know how to execute. Take a look at which retailers did well in a tricky part of the season with the "wrong" weather. The retailers with the good comp numbers are the same ones we have come to expect to do well, the guys who get it and have the right merchandise at the right price points in an attractive setting.

For example, TJX Corp. (TJX) once again delivered that level of consistency that we have come to admire so much, despite its big presence in Europe. Costco (TJX) has the best eye of the group, fantastic merchandise, a treasure-hunt experience, rock-bottom prices -- unlike Target (TGT) -- so it shoots the lights out. No surprise. And Target is truly in Costco's crosshairs.

Ross Stores (ROST) -- when will people believe in these guys? Another 52-week-high on a terrific beat. Macy's (M) has become a delivery machine. They just seem to execute and execute regardless of the weather, and they aren't so apparel-heavy as to be caught (as Kohl's (KSS) obviously was). Pier One (PIR) is not up despite the guide-up, in part because it has run so much. I would take advantage of that one and scoop it up, as this is a major transformation that has multiple years ahead of it.

Limited (LTD) keeps its record of returning money to shareholders with a terrific $2 special dividend as Les Wexner -- no longer spry but certainly my guy -- quietly churns out some terrific profits, led by Victoria's Secret. Nordstrom (JWN) has managed to keep the high end alive as a theme in a time when Tiffany (TIF) has stumbled. The stock motors higher.

The only real surprise of the "surprises" came from Saks (SKS), which has become maddeningly inconsistent and very difficult to game.

The losers ? Lululemon (LULU) seems to have hit a wall, at least when it comes to guidance. It's perceived as still one more overvalued high-growth name when people want lower growth and lower valuation. Kohl's has become a total conundrum. They have the wrong merchandise at the wrong time. Gap (GPS) and JCPenney (JCP) don't deliver, but given their compressed expectations, people brush it off as a chance to snap up stocks that seem to have put in a bottom.

Target? No reason to own it. No momentum. The object of so much competition. Just too easily copied at lower prices. Target was once the darling. Now it is just another retailer in a market where the others are just doing better, period.

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