It seems counterintuitive. The brutally cold winter and early spring should have brought in parades of consumers picking up sheets and blankets, yet Bed Bath & Beyond (NASDAQ:BBBY) reported first-quarter results that gave investors the shivers. Macy's (NYSE:M) and J.C. Penney's (NYSE:JCP) stock prices were able to thaw through the ice, so maybe there is something else giving Bed Bath & Beyond the chills.

Source:  Wikimedia Commons

The sleepy results
On June 25, Bed Bath & Beyond reported fiscal first-quarter results. Net sales lifted 1.7% to about $2.7 billion. Same-store sales inched up 0.4%. Earnings per diluted share were flat due to share repurchases, but net earnings slipped 8.2% to $187.1 million.

The company is calling for diluted per-share earnings growth in the mid-single digit percentage, mostly due to the effect of already and future share repurchases and less so from solid business growth.

There was nothing absolutely horrendous about the quarter or the outlook, but it was a bit of a yawner. The market responded by knocking down the stock price to near 52-week lows.

Source: Macy's

Macy's has more luster
The market is likely uninspired by Bed Bath & Beyond's lackluster results when others in the retail bed, bath, gadget, etc. industry seem to be doing better. For example, though its quarter was weak-looking, Macy's expects 2014 to show same-store sales gains of between 2.5% and 3% along with its sixth consecutive year of double-digit percentage gains in earnings per share.

Terry J. Lundgren, the CEO of Macy's, said: "The fundamentals of our business and our ongoing strategies remain strong." The company backed up its confidence with cold hard cash by raising its dividend by 25% and its share-repurchase authorization by a whopping $1.5 billion.

Meanwhile, even J.C. Penney is looking hopeful on the growth side. The company had previously attributed the cold winter to actually helping the industry a bit. Last quarter, J.C. Penney reported that revenue jumped 6.3% and same-store sales popped 6.2%, marking the second straight quarter of positive gains.

Even J.C. Penney stirred excitement
J.C. Penney saw sequentially improving sales every month of the quarter, while online sales soared 25.7%. Mike Ullman, CEO of J.C. Penney, stated:

We're in the third and final stage, which we call the go-forward phase, during which we're positioning J.C. Penney for long-term, profitable growth.

That being said, J.C. Penney's growth is being compared to year-ago periods of large sales dips, and the company appears nowhere near profitability quite yet. Still, any growth is good and does perhaps say something about the industry providing the chance for any recovery.

Thawing out
Despite the comparative weakness of Bed Bath & Beyond when up against Macy's and J.C. Penney's in terms of growth, perhaps the market has overreacted. While the earnings growth forecast wasn't very exciting, Bed Bath & Beyond CEO Steven Temares noted on the most recent conference call that the company is going through a "period of significant investment" in capital investments and technology that is causing a spike in expenses but only for the short term.

Based on that, sales forecasts may be more meaningful. Susan Lattmann, CFO and treasurer of Bed Bath & Beyond, forecast same-store sales growth of between 1% and 3% for the second quarter and 3% for the full year, which is above Macy's and is not against any huge dip last year like J.C. Penney's.

Foolish takeaway
Although there was disappointment in the first quarter for Bed Bath & Beyond, its outlook looks stronger if you ignore the investment expenses. The same-store sales growth expectations are the most important metric when examining the demand strength of a retail brand. Presumably the investments will boost sales and profits long term, so Fools may want to take the sell-off as an opportunity to give Bed Bath & Beyond a closer look during this window of potentially irrational market panic.