Retail companies want consumers, and consumers want attractive deals. That’s become the order of the day for retail in the country. Many companies have resorted to starting their discount sales earlier than usual for some time now.

What comes as a slight disappointment is that even during the December quarter which had the festival season (hence a stronger quarter usually) this fiscal year, companies had to make attractive offers to entice consumers. Some analysts say that it’s been a “struggle" for retail companies to attract consumers this festival season.

Still, Shoppers Stop Ltd and Pantaloon Retail (India) Ltd are likely to post better numbers in the December quarter, thanks to the festivals and higher number of wedding dates. So demand has been comparatively better than the earlier quarters. What’s more, same-store sales (SSS), which have been weaker in the past couple of quarters, should also be relatively better. SSS measure growth based on stores open for at least a year.

“Pantaloon is likely to post a 10% sales growth as SSS growth is likely to increase to high single digits. Shoppers Stop is expected to report a consolidated sales growth of 15%, with SSS growth expected in high single digits and the remainder being store expansion-driven growth," write analysts from IDFC Securities Ltd in their results preview.

Of course, some things don’t change. For instance, concerns about Pantaloon’s high debt remain. On the other hand, Shoppers Stop’s consolidated financial performance should continue to be adversely affected on account of HyperCity Retail (India) Ltd’s numbers. Investors would do well to track the developments on that front.

On the bourses, the Pantaloon stock has performed well and has outperformed the Sensex since the beginning of this fiscal year. One of the key reasons has been the news flow on foreign direct investment (FDI) and the fact that the company is expected to be the biggest beneficiary of FDI.

What next then? Although demand has improved in the third quarter of fiscal year 2013, demand post the festive season remains challenging and underlying consumer sentiment still shows signs of weakness, says Abneesh Roy, associate director (institutional equities) at Edelweiss Research. Some companies have already started the discount sale season way too early this time. Needless to say, this would reflect in the numbers.