Updated from 9:40 a.m. EST Retailers reported mixed November results Thursday with several maintaining fourth-quarter guidance despite fairly steep declines in same-store sales that reflected the late Thanksgiving. One standout was Gap ( GPS), which blew away analysts' expectations on renewed consumer acceptance of its fashion sense. The biggest retailer, discount giant Wal-Mart ( WMT), posted anemic same-store growth of 2.6% in November, below the 2.7% analysts had forecast and at the low end of the 2%-4% growth the company itself predicted earlier in the month. The Bentonville, Ark., department store said overall companywide sales jumped 10.2% to $21 billion in the four weeks ended Nov. 29. The shares were recently down 1.8% to $53.46. Gap said same-store sales shot up 9% in November on strength in all of its divisions. It's the second straight month of improvement for the clothes retailer and topped analysts' projections for a 5.2% gain. Gap's domestic same-store sales rose 6%, while international same-store sales increased 4%. Among its different chains, Gap said Banana Republic's same-store sales jumped 3%, while Old Navy's rose 15%. "Customers are responding well to key items in our marketing campaigns, including the crazy stripe sweater, scarf and hat at Gap, and Performance Fleece at Old Navy," the company said. Despite the solid results, however, the shares were recently losing 1.7% to $15.90. Probably the biggest disappointment of the month was delivered by American Eagle Outfitters ( AEOS) Wednesday night. Citing weak performance in its men's clothing line, the company said same-store sales fell 6.5%, including a 30.1% decline at a chain that operates primarily in Canada. The shares were off 14% to $16.34 on Instinet. Wal-Mart rival Target ( TGT) said same-store sales dropped 6.7% in November, a slightly narrower-than-expected decline, and maintained its November-December same-store forecast for a gain of 2%. Total sales for the four weeks ended Nov. 30 rose 1% to $3.94 billion from $3.9 billion a year ago. The shares were down 2% to $34.47.
And Sears' ( S) losing streak continued with a 10.9% tumble in same-store sales results, its 15th straight monthly decline. The retailer sees December comps falling by a percentage in the mid-single digits. Nevertheless, Sears' shares were recently up 0.6% to $27.10. Elsewhere, Talbots ( TLB) reported a 3% decline in same-store sales and relatively flat overall sales growth in November, and affirmed its existing fourth-quarter earnings guidance of 48 cents to 53 cents a share. The shares were recently down 3.7% to $29. Columbus, Ohio-based Limited Brands ( LTD) posted an unexpectedly weak 2% decline in same-store results and said total sales on an unadjusted basis fell to $815.4 million from $816.3 million last year. Analysts had expected a 1.8% increase in the same-store number. The shares were down 9.4% to $14.50. Women's clothier Ann Taylor ( ANN) said same-store sales tumbled 10.3% in November, but the company remains comfortable with its fourth-quarter earnings estimate of 32 cents to 33 cents a share, citing improved gross margin. "We now see comparable store sales in the mid to high single-digit negative range for both December and January, and expect the remainder of the fourth fiscal quarter to be very promotional," Ann Taylor said. "However, we expect our strong gross margin performance to continue in December and January." Ann Taylor's shares were down 3.5% to $21.23. J.C. Penney ( JCP) said November same-store sales were unchanged from a year ago, while total sales inched up 1.5% to $2.82 billion. The company backed the consensus fourth-quarter earnings estimate of 60 cents a share. The company's stock was off 2.2% to $22.92. Electronics discounter Circuit City ( CC) released third-quarter results, saying same-store sales jumped 6% while overall sales rose 7% to $2.42 billion. The company said heavy promotions offset the late holiday. The shares were up 0.4% to $9.04.