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Tickers in this Article: PIR, KIRK, SMRT, BGP, RAD
As the stock market's advance looks to take a breather, talk is swirling about whether there's any juice left in the jar at all. Much of the debate hinges on the American consumer, who represents two-thirds of the American economy. Is he stuck? Will she continue to spend? Will he find a job? Did last year's economic troubles breathe a new spirit of frugality into her?

The consumer confidence and retail spending numbers of late have been improving, but some economists fear they may not be sustainable for the long term. This despite the fact that the U.S. recorded its first increase in consumer confidence in nearly three years, while globally numbers are also up significantly, according to Nielsen polls. Others point to September's surprisingly strong retail results and say a rebound is unquestionably on.

If that's the case, there are several retailers whose outperformance has been exceptional - companies whose year-to-date appreciation made those who purchased back in the spring very happy indeed. Let's take a look

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Home Décor: Who Would Have Guessed It?
First up are two home décor retailers who saw a tremendous lift once the market bottomed back in March. Year to date, Pier 1 Imports (NYSE:PIR) and Kirklands (Nasdaq:KIRK) are up 3200% and 575% respectively. Both companies rank among the best performers YTD on the Russell 3000 universe of U.S. listed stocks, with Pier 1 ranking in the top 10.

Pier 1's outperformance may be attributable to savage cost-cutting measures the company has undertaken since February of this year, laying off 10% of the company's full-time employees and negotiating rental reductions at its more than 1,000 retail outlets across North America.

Dressing Up in Profits
Stein Mart (Nasdaq:SMRT) is a discount fashion retailer with 276 stores concentrated in the Southeast and Texas. The company's shares are up over 900% since bottoming in March. Stein Mart attributes its profitability to the success of recently implemented inventory and cost control measures.

Borders Group (NYSE:BGP) is a book retailer with close to 900 outlets across the U.S. Border Groups' stock has risen 550% since setting 52-week lows in December of last year. Cost cutting and a decision to shutter its Waldenbooks chain have contributed to the bottom-line growth. BGP laid off 742 workers in 2009.

Finally, Rite Aid Corporation (NYSE:RAD), a retail drug chain, has seen tremendous outperformance in the last two quarters. RAD stock is up 575% since February. The company just partnered with AtlanticGeneralHospital and Health System to open health clinics in three of its outlets in Maryland and Delaware.

The Wrap
The size of the moves on the stocks above indicates something is afoot with the American consumer. If the situation continues to improve, investors have every reason to believe that the above-named companies should continue their upward trajectory. (For more, see Analyzing Retail Stocks.)

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