The retailing industry's woes are widespread, but Nordstrom and Dillard Department Stores are bucking the trend. Nordstrom's first-quarter profits rose 95%, to $26 million, on sales of $611 million. The improved earnings are the result of tighter inventory and operating controls at Nordstrom's 64 stores, as well as layoffs.

Dillard's earnings rose 30%, to $38 million for the first quarter, on sales of $886 million. Most of the company's 186 stores are in the Midwest, South, and Southeast--regions that have escaped the worst of the recession.

News from The Limited wasn't so good. Same-store sales rose only 1%, and earnings fell 18% for the quarter. The Limited's gross margins took a beating when the company decided to consolidate three apparel lines into one.

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