What happened

Shares of Dillard's Inc. (NYSE:DDS) were roaring higher after the department-store chain posted a better-than-expected third-quarter earnings report at the beginning of the month. The company then rode a bullish retail wave at the end of the month on strong Black Friday numbers across the industry.

According to data from S&P Global Market Intelligence, the stock finished November up 18%. As the chart below shows, Dillard's shares jumped on two separate occasions over the course of the month.

DDS Chart

DDS data by YCharts

So what

While department store chains have certainly struggled this year, Dillard's still managed to outperform expectations. Comparable sales at the chain slipped 1% and overall revenue fell 0.7% to $1.4 billion, ahead of estimates of $1.34 billion. On the bottom line, adjusted earnings per share dropped from $0.67 to $0.41, but that was also better than expectations of $0.19. Gross margin fell 133 basis points to 34.3%, indicating continuing pricing pressure and discounting. Management said that without the impact of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, sales would have been flat.

Shares spiked 12% on that report, though the stock gave back much of those gains before rising the last week of the month, along with other retailers, on strong Black Friday weekend numbers. Dillard's shares jumped 10% on Nov. 29 alone.

Now what

The better-than-expected figures in the quarterly report and the strong Black Friday reports may be encouraging, but the overall numbers are still moving in the wrong direction. Department stores continue to look the most vulnerable in the "retail apocalypse" as they have lots of space that can probably be redeployed for better uses and lack their own brands that would help them transition to online retail.

While Dillard's may be managing the industry shifts better than some of its peers, it still seems like it will be difficult for the company to return to consistent growth.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.