No doubt about it, picking any of the major tattered-denim purveyors would have put your portfolio in good shape over the past year. Abercrombie & Fitch (NYSE:ANF), Aeropostale (NYSE:ARO), and American Eagle Outfitters (NASDAQ:AEOS) have all fared well.

Yesterday, the latest sales numbers hit the newswires. Abercrombie scored with a 31% increase in overall sales and 16% comps growth. American Eagle soared, putting up 30% overall growth and a 20% comps pop. Aeropostale, on the other hand, delivered a batteredpackage. While overall sales were up 13.8%, comps dropped 5.7%.

As you can guess, this stockholder wasn't too impressed with the Easter excuse, since the big bunny's timing clearly didn't derail its direct competitors.

Is Aeropostale on the outs with its customers? My guess is no, but investors who rely on fickle teens need to keep their eyes open to the possibility. (Maybe the name is too Frenchified for the current political climate. Can we just change it to Airmail?)

I'm confident Aeropostale will get it right in the future. But in the meantime, those who want to capitalize on what looks like (media whining to the contrary) a continuing strong consumer environment ought to take a closer look at Abercrombie and American Eagle. Both these firms have an advantage in margins, meaning that more of that top-line growth should trickle down to shareholders.

Gross Margins Operating Margins Net Margin Free Cash Flow Margin
Abercrombie 45% 17.2% 14.3% 11.9%
Aeropostale 33.2% 14.1% 8.7% 9.2%
American Eagle 46.7 19.3% 11.3% 14.9%


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Seth Jayson prefers to rip his jeans himself. At the time of publication, he had shares of Aeropostale -- and kind of wished he owned the others instead -- but he had no position in any other firm mentioned. View his stock holdings and Fool profile here. Fool rules are here.