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Sears' Lands' End Move Shows Weakness in Old-School Analysis

Stocks in this article: SHLD WMT JCP BBY M TGT OSHWQ

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Sears Holdings' (SHLD) move to spin out Lands' End in what The Deal calls a "liquidation sale" shows the weakness of an old-school retail analysis method being used by one of the Street's hottest new-school analysts.

Brian Sozzi of BelusCapitaladvisors has recently been getting headlines by posting pictures of retailers he says are doing things wrong. These pictures of Wal-Mart (WMT) are disturbing. These photos inside Sears are just sad.

This informs calls against Sears and Wal-Mart, along with J.C. Penney (JCP). Companies he seems to like include Macy's (M), Target (TGT) and Best Buy (BBY).

I have been to Sears and Wal-Mart outlets like those Sozzi photographed and seen the kinds of scenes he shows with my own eyes. His results appear valid.

The question is whether they're valuable.

Results this year are mixed. Best Buy has indeed been a winner, up almost 49% just in the last three months and zooming 262% so far this year. Sozzi's negative call on J.C. Penney has also been accurate -- the retailer is down 55% in just the last three months, 62% this year.

But Macy's and Target are both down in value over the last three months and Sears has zoomed up 55% in that time.

So what's going on? How valuable is store-walking as an investment tool? How relevant is the appearance of operations to how a company is doing for investors?

Sozzi is a peripatetic contributor to all the media he can find. You will find him on our RealMoney site, as well as Forbes. He's on all social media, including Facebook and LinkedIn. He tweets like a demon. He is listed as running a newsletter called Decoding Wall Street. He wears a suit well and can be at your TV studio in a flash. Our own social media maven, Rocco Pendola, has him in his "never sleeps" club.

The question for investors is whether this kind of analysis works. I think it does demonstrate long-term trends of which investors and management should be aware but it tends to be a lagging indicator rather than a leading one. Done as a "gotcha" and promoted as a reason for short-term moves, it's limited.

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