Teen Retailers Impress in December - TheStreet

(Teen retailer articles updated to reflect Aeropostale's e-comp versus in-store sales.)



) -- Teen retailers reported better-than-expected December same-store sales on Wednesday and Thursday, winning a holiday game of chicken with bargain-hunting shoppers.

"Retailers have had twelve months to plan for the holiday season and they did a good job," Stifel Nicolaus analyst Richard Jaffe said. "They had the right product at the right price promoted effectively."

The analyst said that no single tool or promotion worked to attract customers. Each company simply dug deep into its arsenal.

Also this holiday season, teen retailers appear to have demonstrated that many consumers still prefer the in-store shopping experience.

According to the investment firm Needham & Co., online sales comprised just 5% to 10% of the total sales recorded by teen retailers in December. Aeropostale's e-comp sales, for example, were up 44% in December. But even then, they totaled $38 million, which still pales in comparison to the $460.8 million it reaped from its in-store business.

Needham analyst Christine Chen singled out



as a star December performer. The company posted same-store sales growth of 10% for the month, beating analysts' estimates of 3.1%, despite being up against tougher year-over-year comparisons than other retailers.

Given those December results, Aeropostale, according to Chen, is looking at earnings growth of 32% to 33% for its fourth quarter.

The analyst also was impressed by


(ZUMZ) - Get Report

, which managed to increase its December same-store sales by 0.3%, much better than the dropoff that analysts had been anticipating.

Overall, Chen said, the level of discounting seen at teen retailers in December came earlier and more frequently than last year, although the price cuts weren't as deep, which made for wider profit margins this time around.

Brian Sozzi of Wall Street Strategies said he likes what

American Eagle

(AEO) - Get Report

has been doing. He cited the mix of fashion and value the company has offered in its product lines.

American Eagle's December same-store sales rose by 7%, better than the 2.3% rise analysts were expecting.

Heading into spring, Sozzi predicts that the company will have a competitive edge against its rivals. That's because American Eagle began offering spring preview items on Christmas Eve, far earlier than its peers, which will increase its lead time by 45 to 90 days.

Among the the few disappointing teen retailers this December was, in the words of Needham's Chen, "poor little

Hot Topic


." The company's Twilight line didn't perform as well as expected, helping cause a same-store sales decline of 10.9%, worse than the 8.6% drop analysts had predicted.

-- Reported by Andrea Tse in New York

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