It seems Stanley Works (NYSE:SWK) got the sort of Christmas present that would leave most people longing for a lump of coal. Big retailers apparently stopped ordering more products from the company, which led to a nasty shortfall for the quarter.

Reported revenue for the fourth quarter was up 6% but flat on an organic basis. Looking at as-reported numbers, we see that while security-solutions sales rose 23%, industrial-tool sales climbed just 2%, and consumer-product sales were flat. Profitability took a turn for the worse as well, and net income from continuing operations came in flat for the quarter -- for which Wall Street flattened the stock.

I can't say I'm too comfortable with the explanation from Stanley Works execs, who said that point-of-sales performance was strong, that inventories at customers were in line with historical norms, and that they did not believe the order curtailments came from any problems specific to Stanley Works.

See, here's the thing. What are the odds that Home Depot (NYSE:HD) and Lowe's (NYSE:LOW) would both do companywide readjustments at the same time unless there was a demand problem? And what are the odds that they'd risk running out of popular products during the Christmas season if Stanley Works' goods were in fact selling well? Now, let me be clear -- the company did not specify that Home Depot and Lowe's were the companies responsible; I'm just making an assumption here.

I realize a lot of people don't think much about the dynamics between retailers and suppliers, but investors should. By and large, suppliers and large retailers are not cuddle-buddies working hand-in-hand for each other's prosperity. Quite frankly, retailers can be brutal. They know they can't really put the screws to their customers (or else we'll go down the street to a competitor), so they'll go after their suppliers from time to time. After all, Home Depot and Lowe's would probably survive without Stanley Works' products, but I'm not sure the reverse is true.

So what's happening here? The reported numbers don't suggest that Stanley Works' tools and products are exactly flying off retailers' shelves. Plus, there's also the possibility that the large retailers are looking to encourage competition for Black & Decker (NYSE:BDK) and Stanley Works by stocking more Makita (NASDAQ:MKTAY) and Ryobi tools.

Whatever the case may be, I think I'd stand on the sidelines until the dust clears a bit. With the company forecasting anemic organic-sales growth and launching a questionable $200 million share repurchase, I don't see a reason to play chicken with a possible oncoming train.

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Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).