After initially suffering through the early part of the recession Cabela's Inc. (NYSE:CAB) reported a positive same store sales increase for the fourth quarter ended December 27, 2008. This proves there is at least one retailer in America that is making its way through the recession and credit crisis in decent condition.

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Cabela's is a specialty retailer and direct marketer of hunting, fishing, camping and outdoor equipment. The company has 29 retail locations across the U.S., and one in Canada. Some of its store locations are behemoths with the largest at 247,000 square feet.

Cabela's reported net income of $49.4 million (74 cents per share) for the fourth quarter. Same store sales were up 2.2%, and the company indicated that positive same store sales growth continued in January and February 2009. This was in sharp contrast to the third quarter when the company saw a drop of 9.0% in same store sales.

Not All Good News
The direct channel saw a large revenue drop of 8.2%. Since there are no same store sales in the direct channel, we can only take this news on its face value, which are customers scaling back on discretionary purchases.

Cabela's started life as a catalogue company in the early 1960s, and did not open its first retail outlet until 1987. It started offering products online in the late 1990s when the internet became commercial. In the fourth quarter, its revenues are currently split equally between the direct and retail channel.

There are also some quirky parts of Cabela's. The company owns a banking subsidiary called the World's Foremost Bank, which the company uses to offer a Cabela's branded Visa card to its customers. The company also holds an inventory of hunting properties on its balance sheet that it offers for sale on its website. (Learn more on this industry in Economic Indicators: Retail Sales Report.)

The retail sector has had one of the worst performances during the bear market due to investor concern about the exhaustion of the American consumer. The S&P Retail SPDR (NYSE:XRT) is down 43% from its 52 week high, and several retailers have gone bankrupt including CircuitCity. Another retailer that has shown some sales strength in the last quarter was Family Dollar (NYSE:FDO), which reported same store sales up 2.1% in its first fiscal quarter. Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) has also held up well as shoppers flocked to the retailer to save on food and other costs. The company reported that same store sales were up by 1.7% company wide excluding fuel purchases in the quarter ending January 31, 2009.

The market may have pronounced the death of retail, but there are some rays of hope shining through as Cabela's reported positive same store sales growth in the fourth quarter of 2008, and the first two months of 2009. This retailer may be one of the companies that make it through stronger to the other side of the abyss.

To analyze retail stocks, investors need to be aware of the most common metrics used, learn them in Analyzing Retail Stocks.

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