WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. (TheStreet) -- Nevermind. Just nevermind. Retail same store sales is perhaps the most misleading number shoved down the gullet of traders by the media, with their monthly round of pontification and quick conclusions.

But ask sometime and I'll tell you how I really feel.

The problem, of course, centers on the top line nature of the number. In times of deep discounting (i.e. today) the number defines deception. It might look sparkly, but stand for nothing in terms of profit, which is all that matters.

Look at business media headlines today, and anecdotes within the articles, and you get the delusional sense that the prospect of profits is not important--even during a month, mind you, when retailers like The Gap ( GPS) were discounting upwards of 60%.

The Associated Press played trumpets with this headline: "Retailers Report Solid Gains for September." Solid gains that'll lead to sordid earnings come November. The Los Angeles Times was guilty of another common offense against good reason. They interviewed a shopper, a man buying a toy helicopter and (count 'em) two televisions. He said he was "still buying things that made him happy." Simple as that, huh? Consumers are jobless and altogether strapped, but they'll still buy whatever makes them happy. It's magical thinking...especially if you don't address (and the LA Times did not) whether the man only bought due to deep discounting. One more question: what's a grown man doing with a toy helicopter?
At the time of publication, Fuchs had no positions in any of the stocks mentioned in this column.

Marek Fuchs was a stockbroker for Shearson Lehman Brothers and a money manager before becoming a journalist who wrote The New York Times' "County Lines" column for six years. He also did back-up beat coverage of The New York Knicks for the paper's Sports section for two seasons and covered other professional and collegiate sports. He has contributed frequently to many of the Times' other sections, including National, Metro, Escapes, Style, Real Estate, Arts & Leisure, Travel, Money & Business, Circuits and the Op-Ed Page.

For his "Business Press Maven" column on how business and finance are covered by the media, Fuchs was named best business journalist critic in the nation by the Talking Biz website at The University of North Carolina School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Fuchs is a frequent speaker on the business media, in venues ranging from National Public Radio to the annual conference of the Society of American Business Editors and Writers.

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