A tough economy sharply divided the holiday season into clear winners and losers:
MACY'S INC.: The department store chain is benefiting from its sweeping plan to tailor merchandise to local markets. Its exclusive merchandise, including celebrity names like Donald Trump, has also attracted shoppers. It's also done well with Madonna's Material Girl fashion collection aimed at teens.
NORDSTROM INC: Nordstrom began offering free shipping on most items without any minimum purchase for online shoppers. It's also improved its service, and last year added Wi-Fi access to all its full-line stores. Like many designer stores, it has weaned shoppers off of discounts by offering limited inventory of designer merchandise.
COSTCO WHOLESALE CORP: The wholesale club operator woos shoppers with discounted household items sold at bulk. It's also attracted shoppers who like to go on treasure hunts, looking for sharply reduced top fashion brands in limited quantities.
TJX COS.: The operator of TJ Maxx, Marshalls and Home Goods has lured shoppers who like top brands but don't want to pay full price.
LIMITED BRANDS INC.: The Cincinnati-based Victoria's Secret parent has enticed shoppers with affordable luxuries like its Dreams Angels' fragrance launches.
TARGET CORP. The discounter is feeling more pressure from a rebounding Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which is hammering low prices in a bid to improve sales.
J.C. PENNEY CO. The department store chain targets middle-class shoppers who have been financially squeezed by a tough economy and are heading to discounters. The company has fared well with Sephora beauty shops and new exclusive brands like European clothing line MNG by Mango. But analysts say it needs to create a more exciting shopping environment.
KOHL'S CORP. Like Penney, the department store chain is grappling with a middle-class customer who is scrimping on basics but splurging on affordable fashions. The company has added key exclusive brands, but analysts say it has to look at other ways to entice shoppers to spend.
GAP INC. The clothing company has long struggled to reinvigorate itself. The problem is the fashions are no longer exciting to buy and the chain is being squeezed by fast-fashion rivals like H&M at the low end and J.Crew at the high end. As a result, the chain has had to resort to deep discounting to drive sales.