How strong was this holiday season really? How about strong enough to turn around all divisions of Urban Outfitters (URBN), including the namesake store that had been so troubled?
How about strong enough to change the loss range for Aeropostale (ARO) from the projected 18 to 23 cents to one to six cents?
How about strong enough to raise Gap (GPS) store numbers to 73-74 cents for the just ended quarter versus the 68 cents people were looking for, including a swing to the positive for Banana Republic, to a 1% gain from an expected 3% loss?
And yet if you go back and look at the news articles at the time of the holiday season kickoff, all you read were about how weak things were. Shopper Track, for example, was widely quoted as saying that sales for Thanksgiving and Black Friday at bricks-and-mortar stores were down 0.5% year over year. Not to be outdone in negativity, the National Retail Federation survey from Dec. 1, 2014 said Thanksgiving Week sales fell from $57.4 billion to $50.9 billion year over year. At the time of the survey Matthew Shay, the Federation's president and CEO, said these results show "there are a significant number of Americans out there for whom the recession is not yet over."
To be fair, these stories and surveys clustered around Black Friday, and the executives polled were candid in that perhaps Black Friday had become something that was no longer possessing of retail mindshare. The Federation was still projecting sales numbers to be nicely up. But if you go back and look at the charts of the major and minor chains, you can see they all got hit by these projections and the "recession is not yet over" remained the mindset in the market.
The ironic thing? It turns out there was no recession mindset. If anything, when you see the kinds of numbers that are just starting to come out you tend to think more boom than gloom. You have chains that are coming back from the dead now and it is pretty amazing.
Sure, there's Radio Shack, but the writing was on the wall years ago there. You had weak numbers from Tiffany (TIF), too. And there's the mystery of Deckers (DECK). But Kohl's (KSS) has already raised guidance, and I think that's going to be the pattern going forward.
In short, when I look so far at what I am seeing it isn't just haves versus the have nots decrying the promotional conditions. It's just some really big non-promotional wins versus some rather small losses.
You know what's pathetic, though? This is still one more holiday season where all the trackers got it wrong, and I am not just including those who exclude Apple (AAPL) or Amazon (AMZN). This was very much a mall-based holiday season, just when we thought the mall was done for.
It's not the malls that are done for, it's the prognosticators, who have endlessly been wrong. I know when these negative headlines about the holiday season first started appearing I called them out directly on Mad Money saying these stories are going to spook you out of great moves. I had the usual knuckleheads on Twitter saying that I had no idea what I was talking about.
They were wrong.
Many sold, thinking that maybe gasoline and more hiring didn't matter.
That was wrong, too.
It was a terrific Christmas season for all but the crummiest of companies and the best of companies, with the former going under and the latter simply not seeing the pick-up because the shoppers who go to places like Tiffany probably don't even pay attention to what they pay at the pump. It is and was and always will be irrelevant and unnoticeable to the spending patterns of the wealthy, even as it is proving to be the be all and end all of all the rest.