Victoria's Secret parent Limited Brands Inc and warehouse club operator Costco Wholesale Corp were some of the bright spots among retailers that reported January sales on Thursday.
Strength in markets such as California and strong demand for food helped Costco post a better-than-expected 9 percent rise in same-store sales.
Limited Brands, which has won praise from analysts for its efforts to become a destination for small gifts, reported a 24 percent rise in same-store sales, well past the analysts' average estimate of 6.7 percent.
Of the 11 retailers that have reported sales so far, six beat estimates, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Other retailers might not been so lucky as the snowiest January in six years played havoc with hopes of a strong ending to the holiday season. The weather curbed shopper traffic in malls and stores, especially in the Northeast, where there were multiple snowstorms.
Amidst a sea of uncertainty in retail today, we believe Costco remains a team that can (play) both offense and defense in any environment, JPMorgan analyst Charles Grom said on Thursday. Excluding the weather impact, he said, Costco's same-store sales stands as its best single monthly report in 5 years.
Fewer discounted goods in a typically promotional month could also have kept bargain-hungry shoppers away, analysts said.
Retailers ranging from Target Corp to Saks Inc are also expected to report January sales on Thursday. January is the final month and the smallest contributor to sales in the retail sector's fourth quarter.
Analysts expect sales at stores open at least a year, or same-store sales, to show a rise of 2.7 percent, compared with a year-earlier increase of 3.3 percent, according to Thomson Reuters data.