What happened

Shares of Macy's (NYSE:M), J.C. Penney (OTC:JCPN.Q), and Kohl's (NYSE:KSS) jumped 26.9%, 18.2%, and 14.9% last month, according to data provided by S&P Global Market Intelligence.

The retailers delivered third-quarter financial results that were better than many investors feared, helping to fuel optimism that a strong holiday shopping season could drive continued gains.

So what

These stocks' upward moves kicked into high gear on Nov. 9, when Macy's third-quarter adjusted earnings of $0.23 per share exceeded Wall Street's expectations for $0.19, and the company issued an optimistic outlook for the all-important holiday season.

The next day, J.C. Penney's shares popped after it delivered third-quarter revenue and adjusted earnings that also bested analysts' estimates.

And while Kohl's adjusted earnings came in slightly below expectations ($0.70 vs. $0.72), its $4.33 billion in revenue was slightly above the consensus estimate of $4.3 billion. Kohl's also raised its adjusted EPS guidance to $3.60-$3.80, up from $3.50-$3.80, and received an analyst upgrade shortly thereafter.

A person walking while holding a shopping bag labeled Black Friday

Image source: Getty Images.

Now what

Early signs point toward a strong holiday selling season for these retailers. Kohl's said it delivered a "record-breaking" Thanksgiving, with "hundreds of thousands of customers" lined up outside its stores prior to their opening and more than 16 million visits to Kohls.com.

"Black Friday sales and traffic have been very strong, both online and in store -- well ahead of last year," Kohl's CEO Kevin Mansell said in a press release. "We're leaning into customers' desire to shop when and how they want, and making their experience seamless in-store and online."

Meanwhile, J.C. Penney said its website received the most visits of any day so far this year on Thanksgiving, and that its stores enjoyed strong traffic on Black Friday. "Hundreds -- and, in some cases, thousands -- of shoppers lined up outside our stores for popular items," the company wrote in a statement.

And although Macy's had some issues that slowed down its payment system on Black Friday, CEO Jeff Gennette said on CNBC that Macy's holiday selling season is off to a "strong start" with "very robust online demand."

Moreover, even after their strong November performance, Kohl's, Macy's, and J.C. Penney's stocks are down 12%, 40%, and 66%, respectively, over the past year. Some investors are beginning to see value in their beaten-down shares, and if these retailers can deliver solid fourth-quarter results, more gains could lie ahead for shareholders.

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.