Up, down and all around for December retail sales

Shoppers at Macy's during the holiday season.

Every holiday shopping season we hear CEOs of the big retail chains express their unabashed exuberance over how great business is.

Then January comes and it's time to share the actual numbers. On this Thursday, the big retailers are reporting some wins, misses and draws. Same-store sales of Target, for example, were up 1.6 percent in December. Sounds good, but that was lower than what analysts had been calling for.

Urban Outfitters said sales for November and December were $577 million, up 11 percent over the same two-month period of 2010. The Philadelphia retailer also said it opened 18 new stores of its flaghip brand, 13 new Anthropologie stores, 18 new Free People stores and one BHLDN, its bridal brand, during the 11 months ended December 31.

Maternity wear retailer Destination Maternity did not fare as well. Its net sales for the three months ended Dec. 31 were up just 0.7 percent to $136.4 million. But CEO Ed Krell said that sales were weaker than the Philadelphia chain had anticipated. That means the company now expects earnings for its first quarter to be "at the low end or slightly lower" than the 17 cents to 26 cents per share guidance that it provided in November.

York-based Bon-Ton Stores said its same-store sales were down 0.7 percent in December. Tony Buccina, the department-store chain's president of merchandising, blamed "unseasonably mild weather."