Last-minute shoppers gave retailers nationwide an overall respectable, but somewhat mixed, 2004 holiday season. A number of local companies ended up faring well.

There were strong and weak performers in almost every retail sector. While Costco Wholesale Corp., Target Corp., teen retailer Abercrombie & Fitch Co. and upscale merchants like Neiman Marcus Group Inc. all surpassed Wall Street projections, disappointments included Sears Roebuck and Co., Gap Inc., Pier 1 Imports Inc. and jeweler Zale Corp.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., posted a 3 percent rise in same-store sales, or sales at stores open at least one year, slightly beating Wall Street's estimates.

Locally, City of Industry-based mall retailer Hot Topic Inc. saw a pick-up in sales in the last week of December and an overall sales increase of 8 percent to $125.2 million during the month. Its comparable store sales, however, were down 6.2 percent. On Thursday. Hot Topic was raised to "buy" from "hold" by Sanders Morris Harris, sending the stock soaring nearly 8.6 percent to $17.91.

L.A.-based apparel company Guess Inc. reported that total retail sales for the fiscal month ended Dec. 31 were $79.9 million, an increase of 13.2 percent over the same period in 2003. Comparable store sales were up 5.6 percent for December.

Westlake Village-based Guitar Center Inc. boosted its earnings outlook for the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, based on stronger-than-expected sales during the holiday season. The musical instrument retailer reported that comparable store sales jumped 10 percent during the quarter.

Orange County's top homegrown retailers were mixed during the holiday season. Anaheim-based Pacific Sunwear of California Inc. said same-store sales grew 5.3 percent for the five-week period ended Jan. 1. And struggling Foothill Ranch-based Wet Seal Inc. reported that same-store sales fell 11.8 percent during in that period.

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