SAN DIEGO (TheStreet) -- In the recent quarter or two, companies -- especially retailers -- blamed the weather for dismal performance.
Then, Tuesday, something new happened: With the weather throughout the country actually good, retailers that underperformed had to find something else to blame. Wal-Mart (WMT) - Get Walmart Inc. Report, which blamed the weather as recently as May, suggested the economy also appears to be playing a role.
Later the same day, The Container Store (TCS) - Get The Container Store Group, Inc. Report reported disappointing results and guidance and, guess what, according to CEO Kip Tindell: "We've come to realize it's more than weather and calendar. Consistent with so many of our fellow retailers, we are experiencing a retail 'funk'."
Reality: That's brilliant, because it covers a lot of ground, and is far more comprehensive than just the weather. Trouble is, it gives companies new cover. The trick for investors is figuring out who is genuinely being impacted by a "retail funk" or just good, old-fashioned sub-par execution.
Or, put another way: Keep an eye on the outliers who don't complain of a retail funk? Or the weather. Or anything. A quarter ago, it was Chipotle (CMG) - Get Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc. Report on the restaurant side. More recently, among retailers, it was Williams Sonoma (WSM) - Get Williams-Sonoma, Inc. Report. This very well could be the quarter that separates the truly good retailers from everybody else.
-- Written by Herb Greenberg in San Diego
Herb Greenberg, editor of Herb Greenberg's Reality Check, is a contributor to CNBC. He does not own shares, short or trade shares in an individual corporate security. He can be reached at email@example.com.