December's retail sales were weaker than expected. Expectations for 0.4% month-over-month growth in retail sales were met with a mere 0.1% gain.
"Retail sales less autos declined 0.2% month-over-month," reports Business Insider. Although it is quick to add: "Watch for revisions to these numbers."
December figures are important because they reflect holiday spending, and they are expected to jump pretty high. Naturally, low retail sales suggest a weak economic recovery.
Many expected holiday season sales to positively surprise, making the disappointing numbers all the more bitter. Consumer spending makes up 70% of the U.S. GDP, and retail sales account for nearly 50% of all consumer spending -- these numbers are important indicators for the direction of the economy.
On a more optimistic note, total retail sales are up from 2010 by 7.9%.
Business section: Investing ideas
So, which retail stocks are worth a closer look?
For ideas, we collected data on insider transactions, and identified a list of prominent U.S. retailers that have seen significant insider buying over the last six months.
Theoretically, insiders know more about their companies than anyone else, so if they're using their own cash to buy the shares of their employers, you better pay close attention.
Insider executives are optimistic on the outlook of these companies -- do you agree? (Click here to access free, interactive tools to analyze these ideas.)
1. American Eagle Outfitters (NYSE: AEO ) : Operates as an apparel and accessories retailer in the United States and Canada. Over the last six months, insiders were net buyers of 1,134,490 shares, which represents about 0.68% of the company's 166.68M share float.
2. Carter's (NYSE: CRI ) : Designs, sources, and markets branded children's wear. Over the last six months, insiders were net buyers of 1,110,366 shares, which represents about 2.25% of the company's 49.41M share float.
3. Saks (NYSE: SKS ) : Operates fashion retail stores in the United States. Over the last six months, insiders were net buyers of 886,717 shares, which represents about 0.87% of the company's 101.62M share float.
4. WMS Industries (NYSE: WMS ) : Engages in the design, manufacture, and distribution of games, video and mechanical reel-spinning gaming machines, and video lottery terminals (VLTs) for the legalized gaming industry worldwide. Over the last six months, insiders were net buyers of 65,900 shares, which represents about 0.12% of the company's 54.17M share float.
5. Office Depot: Office Depot,, together with its subsidiaries, supplies office products and services. Over the last six months, insiders were net buyers of 165,000 shares, which represents about 0.06% of the company's 275.80M share float.
6. G-III Apparel Group (Nasdaq: GIII ) : Designs, manufactures, imports, and markets a range of outerwear and sportswear apparel to retailers primarily in the United States. Over the last six months, insiders were net buyers of 20,000 shares, which represents about 0.15% of the company's 13.71M share float.
7. OfficeMax: Distributes business-to-business and retail office products. Over the last six months, insiders were net buyers of 89,300 shares, which represents about 0.11% of the company's 84.73M share float.
Interactive Chart: Press Play to compare changes in analyst ratings over the last two years for the stocks mentioned above. Analyst ratings sourced from Zacks Investment Research.
List compiled by Eben Esterhuizen, CFA. Kapitall's Eben Esterhuizen and Rebecca Lipman do not own any of the shares mentioned above. Insider data sourced from Yahoo! Finance.