Investors are wandering around their halls, waiting for the year to finish out, waiting to see who ends up in the White House, waiting to see what happens to housing and employment -- and all the while, a banquet is being set for them. The most recent aroma to drift in comes in the form of sales figures from August. Gains were larger than expected, with three great brands serving up some of the most tempting morsels. Isn't it time to have a seat and tuck in for the feast?
The full dinner menu
This meal isn't a surprise. Retail sales figures have come in strong over the past few months, with perennial winners like Target
Last year was a mixed bag, with warmer weather keeping demand for winter clothing low, but other retailers doing well -- although even that "doing well" was mixed. While sales were up for some retailers, they ended up having to discount merchandise heavily to get customers through the doors. That hurt margins and investors. But this year is looking better, and consumer counter ShopperTrak has forecasted a 4% increase in back-to-school spending, which could give the sector momentum going into the end of the year.
The August winners
Some retailers have already started filling their plates up for the big meal, and August sales figures are giving investors a good glimpse of what's to come. Gap
My current favorite retailer, Buckle
Finally, Limited Brands
The bottom line
Sales trends are looking great moving into the end of 2012. If companies can continue this strong growth, then there's no reason they won't have a good Christmas. While Buckle is my favorite of the lot, I think Gap is probably going to have the best time of it through the rest of the year. Last year was the beginning of a turnaround for Gap, and the comparable sales that the company will post this year should be well above 2011. As I said earlier, a strong back-to-school season will put Gap in a position to rake it in this Christmas. I'd love to see September same-store sales push into the double digits.
If you like the smells coming out of the dining room, I'd pull up a seat and get ready to be full. Retailers are gearing up for an excellent Christmas, and there's no reason not to dig in with them. But these three companies aren't the only ones that are going to do well. In its special report, the Fool covers three more companies set to make millionaires out of the middle class. You can get all the details, and find out what they're cooking, for free. But this one is only up for a limited time, so get yours today.