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Which Apparel Stock Gained this Holiday: Gap or Stein Mart?


The holiday season is a make-or-break time for retailers. The period is marked by a flurry of deals as retailers flood the markets with offers and promotions. Since the season accounts for a sizeable chunk of yearly revenues and profits, retailers grab every opportunity to drive footfall. Our today’s article revolves around two apparel retailers The Gap, Inc. GPS and Stein Mart, Inc. SMRT, as to how the holiday season has unfolded for them.

Despite operating in similar market conditions and belonging to the same industry, Zacks categorized Retail-Apparel and Shoes, there was a stark difference between their performances. While Gap posts solid holiday sales numbers, Stein Mart struggled to hold its ground. Let’s take a closer look.

Gap: A Holiday Victor

Gap’s strategies for the busiest selling season of the year seems to have paid off, as comparable-store sales for the November and December period rose 2%, while net sales increased 1%. Comparable-store sales benefited from favorable customer response for the Gap and Old Navy brands. Although, early November results were dampened by soft traffic at stores and malls, the pace picked up gradually as is evident from solid sales numbers for December.

Gap posted a 4% increase in comparable-store sales for December, compared with a 5% decline in the same period of 2015. Net sales for the five-weeks ended Dec 31, 2016 came in at $2.07 billion, up 3% from $2.01 billion for the five-weeks ended Jan 2, 2016.

Impressive holiday sales results provided much impetus to this Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) stock. Shares of Gap have gained 2.5% since the announcement of holiday sales results on Jan 5, 2017.

Stein Mart: A Flop Show

The impact of challenging retail landscape and stiff competition from online retailers was clearly evident in the Stein Mart’s holiday sales results. Comparable-store sales for the nine-week period ended Dec 31, 2016 declined 4.8%, while total sales fell 1.9% compared with the prior-year period. Management hinted that aggressive promotions and markdowns have weighed on the gross margin and it now expects to post a loss during the final quarter of fiscal 2016.

Stein Mart’s lackluster performance hurt investor sentiment gravely. As a result, this Zacks Rank #4 (Sell) stock plunged 5.5% following the outcome of holiday sales results on Jan 6, 2017.

Stocks to Consider

Better-ranked stocks in the retail sector include Best Buy Co., Inc. BBY and The Children's Place, Inc. PLCE both flaunting a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.

Best Buy delivered an average positive earnings surprise of 25.7% in the trailing four quarters and has a long-term earnings growth rate of 11.9%.

The Children's Place delivered an average positive earnings surprise of 36.3% in the trailing four quarters and has a long-term earnings growth rate of 10.3%.

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