NEW YORK (TheStreet) - Retail stocks such as Signet Jewlers (SIG - Get Report), Big Lots (BIG - Get Report), Rite Aid (RAD - Get Report), Barnes & Noble (BKS) and Build-A-Bear (BBW - Get Report) have outperformed the broader retail sector this year, as the S&P 500 Retailing Index has fallen 5.44% compared to a 6.1% gain the S&P 500 as of June 30.
In general, retailers - specifically those dependent on mall traffic - were crushed in the first half of the year as the harsh winter weather experienced by much of the U.S. kept consumers indoors and their wallets closed. Weather wasn't the only reason for poor performance -- it's clear that shoppers are being cautious, looking for deals, or for specific items, such as an Apple (AAPL) iPhone.
Companies that still rely on traditional bricks-and-mortar stores are struggling as they lose out to Amazon (AMZN) and other retail chains that have been quicker to embrace online sales channels.
The second half is likely to be better for retailers, taking into account better employment data and the back-to-school season which will give a boost to retail chains from apparel makers to drug stores. That will be followed by the all-important holiday season. "Retail stocks generally have a lower average return than the S&P 500 during the summer months between May and July because of a lack of catalysts (-0.8% on average)," Citigroup analyst Oliver Chen wrote in a June 25 note. "Performance will likely improve starting August and through November as back to school and holiday shopping boosts retail stocks." TheStreet analyzed total return data as of June 30 from Bloomberg. The data parameters used included U.S. retailers whose stocks are in the Russell 3000. Here are five of the best performing retail stocks this year in ascending total return.