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Is The Retail Revival Real Or Just a Dead Cat Bounce?

Prospects for sales in early spring look strong, but consumer spending will cool as the weather gets warmer. Or at least that's the prognosis from two recent studies -- one from BIGResearch and the other from ForecastIQ. The reasons have to do with pent-up demand from shoppers who have been sidelined by winter storms in the Northeast and the Easter holiday falling earlier than usual this year.

The positive short-term news comes from the February ForecastIQ study from Prosper Technologies, a software developer that helps retailers predict consumer behavior. ForecastIQ tracks 27 retailers and looks at their results.

According to the ForecastIQ, almost certain to enjoy comparable store sales increase are Aeropostale (ARO), BJ's (BJ), Ross (ROST) and TJX (TJX), all of which have been moving through the recession and nascent recovery at a pretty nice clip. The four retailers all trade in inexpensive apparel, although BJ's is bigger in food. So while consumers certainly focused spending on food in the soft economy, helping dollar stores and value supermarkets, the forecast demonstrates they'll still purchase apparel at the right price.
Also, likely to see better comps are Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF), American Eagle (AEO), Buckle (BKE), Cato (CATO) Costco (COST), Nordstrom (JWN) and Old Navy. So, some premium retailers have better prospects for winter's end.

That uptick in sales may be short-lived according to BIGResearch, which among other things works with the National Retail Federation in developing the industry association's forecasts on holiday sales. BigResearch is warning that its own consumer confidence study suggests that consumers who edged back into the market for the holidays are still wary.

The next occasion when consumers absolutely have to spend money is back to school, so they might not be too enthusiastic about being parted with their money between now and then. The BIGresearch consumer confidence reading for February dropped to 27 percent, the company reported, three percentage points lower than last month's 30 percent and the lowest since July, 2009. So, post-Easter prospects are shaky at best.

So even if the spring starts nicely, watch out for flopping felines.