A handful of retailers delivered their own happy October surprises today in the form of improved sales results for last month, showing that while the retail environment may be tough, consumers can still be persuaded to shop.

Topping the list of overachievers, by a long shot, is

Talbots

(TLB)

, which said same-store sales, or sales at stores open at least a year, rose a whopping 24.8% during September, far more than the 6% to 12% gain anticipated by most analysts. Moreover, at a time when discounting is still rampant at the mall, "virtually all" of the merchandise sold during September was at regular price, the company said. Talbots raised its third-quarter earnings estimate to between $1 and $1.02 per share, above the consensus estimate of 85 cents. Its shares responded nicely to all this sweetness and light, rising $5, or 7.7%, to almost $71. (

TSC

previously

wrote about Talbots' recent success.)

Limited

(LTD)

, parent of

Express

and

Structure

as well as its namesake Limited chain, said same-store sales rose 10%, better than the 4% to 7% gain analysts had expected. (

TSC

recently

wrote about Limited's improving sales.) It was helped by an identical jump in sales at

Intimate Brands

TheStreet Recommends

(IBI)

, in which Limited owns a majority stake. (IBI reported sales on Wednesday, the same day it held an upbeat meeting with analysts and investors in New York.) Limited shares rose 31 cents to $24.25.

Also surprising on the upside:

Abercrombie & Fitch

(ANF) - Get Report

, whose 2% same-store sales decline was better than the 4% to 6% drop analysts had feared.

Pacific Sunwear

(PSUN)

said same-store sales rose 10.7%. Analysts had expected sales to decline by as much as 5%; Pacific Sunwear's shares rose $3.25 to $22.13. And

Gymboree's

(GYMB)

shares rose more than 7% after the company said same-store sales rose 2%. Analysts had expected a drop of as much as 10%.

One notable loser was

Ann Taylor

(ANN)

, whose stock fell almost 12% after the company reported a 1.3% gain in same-store sales. That was at the low end of analysts' estimates.

J.C. Penney

(JCP) - Get Report

shares, meantime, fell 81 cents to $10.38 after the company said it won't meet third-quarter profit expectations and may even lose money.