You might not know it from the numbers. Most of the higher-end department stores such as Saks, Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus reported double-digit declines in same-store sales for December. By that measure, TJ Maxx and Marshalls, both owned by TJX Cos., more than held their own with flat December sales. (Loehmann's and Filene's don't report monthly sales.)
But some analysts say sales figures at TJ Maxx and Marshalls might even have been up if these discounters hadn't faced such stiff competition from department stores. "Because you were able to buy stuff as cheap if not cheaper at department stores, that did have a dampening effect on TJX's sales," Slater says.
There's another factor working against discounters. Normally in a recession, consumers searching for the best deals flock to discounters - and when an excess supply of goods piles up at department stores, the discounters can often scoop up first-run merchandise, as opposed to stocking last season's fashions.