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Retail in Recovery?

Kristin Graham
February 12, 2009

It feels like it's been eternity since the word "increased" made its way into a retail report, but the time has come. Despite the tragic same-store sales figures many independent retailers reported last week, overall sales at retailers in January actually rose 1%. For retail buffs like me, the news initially brought a tingly warm feeling of hope that all is not lost for the sector. So, is retail on the road to recovery?

Let's get real, here. Unemployment is sitting at 7.6%, with major corporations in nearly every industry -- from Macy's (NYSE: M  ) to Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT  ) to PNC Financial Services (NYSE: PNC  ) -- giving employees the boot. Credit lending is still tight as the banks behind MasterCard (NYSE: MA  ) and Visa (NYSE: V  ) cards are no longer handing out gobs of credit to everyday Joes. And gross margins at retailers from premium-priced Saks (NYSE: SKS