Crazy Christmas offers retailers mixed bag

In what turned out to be one of the stranger holiday seasons in recent memory retailers fought through a range of unconventional headwinds to deliver an uneven performance.

Department store retailers felt the pinch and some performed better than others in an uncertain environment characterized by the freak superstorm Sandy, unsettling political bickering over the nation’s finances and a tragic school shooting that reignited the divisive issue of gun control. Despite the overhang of these factors, shoppers still managed to spend with some of the strongest performances turned in at opposite ends of the value spectrum. For example, Nordstrom’s sales increased 8.6% and Macy’s was up 4.1% while TJX Companies and Ross Stores both reported a 6% increase and increased their fourth quarter profit forecasts.

"This comp increase significantly exceeded our expectations and was achieved over an 8% increase last year," said TJX CEO Carol Meyrowitz. "Our December sales underscore that value remains top of mind for consumers and that our ability to offer extreme values during a promotional holiday selling season continues to be one of our key strengths. Once again, customer traffic drove the comp increases at all divisions for the month and importantly, we are confident that we will keep our new and already loyal customers coming back in the New Year and beyond."

At Ross, the company’s 6% gain was far better than the 2% to 3% increase that had been f