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), 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) 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) on the restaurant side. More recently, among retailers, it was Williams Sonoma (WSM). This very well could be the quarter that separates the truly good retailers from everybody else.
-- Written by Herb Greenberg in San Diego