Federated Department Stores (NYSE:FD) partially blamed a softening consumer environment for its weak first quarter. But is that the whole story?

Sales for the quarter were slightly down at $5.92 billion compared to $5.93 billion in the same period a year ago. While Bloomingdale's and some of the older Macy's units performed well, these were more than offset by underperformance at the new Macy's sites, particularly in April.

Gas prices have risen sharply once again in recent weeks, and no doubt consumers are feeling the pinch. So, the poor consumer environment is to blame, right? Um, not so fast. 

If we look around at some of the competition, we find a much different story. Kohl's (NYSE:KSS) saw an 11.8% increase in revenues in its latest quarterly; even its comparable same-store sales looked good at 3.9%. Nordstrom (NYSE:JWN) comps were outstanding, coming in at 9.5% for the period, while net sales came in slightly lower at 9.3%. And J.C. Penney (NYSE:JCP) saw its total department sales move higher by 4.4%, with comps contributing with 2.2% growth. 

Not all was bad for Federated, as the company did make nice strides in its profitability metrics. In an apples-to-apples comparison, operating income as a percentage of net revenues was 4.1% in the quarter, compared with 2.5% last year. Gross margins were also better, coming in at 39.8%, compared to 38.8% in the same period a year ago. Improved leveraging of its business model as well as more effective expense controls should bode well for the enterprise in the latter half of the year, especially when it enters the holiday season.

One of the problems facing Federated in recent months is a marketing campaign that is failing to connect with shoppers. Looking ahead, expect Federated to shift gears with a new promotional strategy. In fact, expect that to really get going today -- Federated is voting on a name change today to be called Macy's. It makes sense given that the bulk of its revenues come from Macy's stores.

If approved, Federated will also employ a different ticker symbol, "M." A journalist for the Cincinnati Enquirer, the city where Federated is based, wrote an article on the name change topic, and at least one analyst interviewed suggested that "M" may become a more significant part of the company's advertising campaign.

My colleague Rick Aristotle Munarriz said that it's time for Federated to "shine under its marquee name," Macy's. Will "M" equal money for the company? It is worth tuning in to find out.

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Fool contributor Jeremy MacNealy has no financial interest in any company mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.