NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Retailers got more coal than presents in their stockings in December. Of the 26 retailers tracked by TheStreet, 13 missed expectations, 12 topped forecasts and one fell in-line with estimates. Overall, December same-store sales rose 3.1% according to the International Council of Shopping Centers. The research firm was looking for a 3.5% increase.
December was especially disappointing given the strength in November, but it is now clear this post-Black Friday hype served to simply pull sales out of December into November. It did not generate more sales or push shoppers to extend their budgets, as both retailers and Wall Street had hoped. "In many respects, December was more in tune with the trend throughout 2010 -- selective buying once a budget was met or selective buying if the promotion was not there or eye-catching," Wall Street Strategies analyst Brian Sozzi, wrote in a note. So what went wrong? Early data from research firms regarding holiday sales were misleading, serving to inflate Wall Street's outlook. Investors also underestimated the impact from treacherous weather that hit most of the U.S. toward the end of the month. Of course, there were spots of optimism out of teen retailers Abercrombie & Fitch ( ANF) and Buckle, high-end department stores Nordstrom ( JWN) and Saks ( SKS) and off-price retailers TJX ( TJX) and Ross Stores ( ROST). Another positive during the month was online sales, which are generally not included in same-store sales tallies. Notable online sales increases occurred at Hot Topic ( HOTT), Wet Seal ( WTSLA), American Eagle Outfitters ( AEO), Macy's ( M), Abercrombie & Fitch ( ANF) and Nordstrom ( JWN). And holiday 2010 is still the strongest since 2006, with November and December same-store sales combined jumping 3.8%, according to the ICSC. In 2006, the same figure rose 4.4%. But overall, December serves as a stark reminder that the consumer recovery is far from solidified, as shoppers still grapple with stubbornly low unemployment, liquidity issues, confidence and now potentially higher prices at the gas pump. So, do investors buy retail stocks on today's dip? Sozzi advises against such a move. "Sentiment on the sector is souring and I see that being the case until we get on the fourth-quarter earnings calls and receive color on the cost backdrop, inventory plans and cap-ex plans for the next year," he wrote. Here's a look at some of the biggest retail sales flops in December.