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Solid Holiday Sales for Retailers, Despite a Few Misses
CNBC.com | January 05, 2012 | 11:48 AM EST

Most U.S. retailers turned in solid finish to the holiday season, despite bargain-hungry consumers who put off their holiday shopping until the last-minute in order to snag the very best deals, and mild temperatures, which dampened demand for winter apparel.

"It was a very promotional Christmas," said Adrianne Shapira, a retail analyst at Goldman Sachs. "We've been calling it was a 'White-knuckle Christmas.' It came late and it came on sale."

On average, same-store sales rose 3.4 percent, a touch higher than the 3.3 percent estimate from Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. The gain also outpaced last December's 3.1 percent same-store sales gain.

The sales increase was led by stronger-than-expected performances at retailers such as Macy's,Limited and Zumiez, which all raised their earnings forecasts.

But there were some notable weak spots. Retailers such as Target,Kohl's ,J.C. Penney , and Children's Place Retail Stores cut their earnings outlooks.

"The holiday results reflect trends we can continue to expect into the New Year," said Frank Badillo, a senior economist at Kantar Retail. "We're seeing weak-to-modest growth overall that hides pockets of strength skewed toward upscale retailers and value-focused retailers that win over shoppers at the expense of their competitors."

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