Hot Topic (NASDAQ:HOTT) qualifies as one of those weird turnaround stories -- when the turnaround never seems to materialize and yet the stock never really looks all that cheap to many of us.

Lots of retailers had an excellent August, benefiting from the back-to-school season. But Hot Topic's month was pretty tepid. The goth and music retailer said same-store sales decreased by 1.1%, versus the 5.4% comp decline this time last year. Granted, its comp performance was a bit better than the 2.5% decrease analysts were expecting. Total sales fell 2.5% to $71.2 million.

It's not time to grab the black light and throw a party just yet, though. The company said in its sales call that the shift in the tax-free shopping days in Florida and Texas helped boost its August results by about three or four percentage points.

Companies like Hot Topic and Gap (NYSE:GPS) have been struggling for years, and while everybody agrees they could turn around, they haven't been able to prove it yet. Meanwhile, they still seem to trade at far higher multiples than many of their hotter peers. For example, Hot Topic is trading at 27 times trailing earnings. Gap's trading at a price-to-earnings ratio (P/E) of 20.

It's not like there aren't some retail stocks out there right now that look like they're worth serious study. I recently thought Charlotte Russe (NASDAQ:CHIC) looked like cheap chic with a P/E of 8. My Foolish colleague David Meier pointed to bebe Stores (NASDAQ:BEBE) as a beaten-down retailer that's looking reasonably priced for investors these days; it has a P/E of 16 at the moment. Even teen winner American Eagle Outfitters (NYSE:AEO) trades at a mere 13 times earnings right now.

Of course, monthly sales data are no substitute for the long-term view and deep study of companies and their prospects. However, they certainly give investors important data to watch for pertaining to the current climate for certain retailers' brands and merchandise. August data imply that Hot Topic's still showing little sign that it's really getting its act together. When it comes to its current share price, investors who are looking for growth and value will probably be better served by shopping elsewhere.

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American Eagle Outfitters, bebe, and Gap are Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendations. Gap is also a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. Take a test run with any Fool newsletter free for 30 days.

Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. The Fool has a disclosure policy.