While hard revenue results aren't yet in for the first leg (of two) for the holiday season, the real winners are becoming clear.
According to analysts at Wedbush Securities, Lululemon LULU and American Eagle AEO came out on top among retailers for Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
As results crossed the wires and analysts updated investors with sales trends, results were mixed. Some retailers saw strong results for one of the days and weak results for the other.
There were loose themes like e-commerce-minded players doing slightly better than brick-and-mortar and discounters and staples players looking better positioned to mitigate tariffs with price increases.
High inventory levels across soft-line retail has weighed on full-priced selling as well.
So far, two perceived winners have had their successes through somewhat idiosyncratic means, rather than through clear themes.
“Winners include Lululemon, American Eagle" and several smaller retailers, wrote Wedbush analyst Jen Redding.
"Instock data sees an excellent Black Friday/Cyber Monday in the books for LULU," Redding said. Instock is a retail-data-analytics company some analysts use to parse sales trends.
Redding said Lululemon did see higher markdowns year-over-year, but that was true across the retail board. But the discounts may very well have been offset by one minor tweak Lulu made on its website that could have paid major dividends for the company’s quarter.
Lululemon changed the promotional line on its website, on which it relies heavily for sales. Last year, the line read "we made too much," indicating to customers inventories were high and the retailer needed to clear it by selling at steep discounts.
This year, the site simply read "Black Friday." This positively altered customers' perception that all products were at steep discounts. With the old slogan, LULU may have seen an even average price point.
"Instock sees this as a sensible strategy to drive sales and sees LULU as one of the key winners in its analysis," Redding said.
American Eagle saw flat discounting year-over-year, Redding said, but its product assortment was favorable for customers.
"Another winner in the BF/CM data is American Eagle, as Instock expects that heightened demand for Eagle's compelling assortments (given more inclusive sizing, better ranges, subscription service, etc.) more than offset markdowns," she said.
American Eagle stock is up just 15% in the past five years. The company has not yet adequately adjusted to e-commerce competition and is frequently cited by analysts as a heavy discounter.
But while e-commerce and specific types of digital strategies are largely driving outsized holiday sales momentum for those players that can use those strategies effectively, clearly there is room for holiday success for retailers that simply understand their customers.