This week's third quarter figures suggest that US fashion retailers appear to have steadied the ship - at least on the bottom line.

However, top line growers are still few and far between, suggesting that consumer confidence is still a little stormy.

In contrast, retail figures in the UK show that clothing sales last month outperformed the general market, soaring 10.7%.

October was also a strong month for US stores on the whole too, of course, and the Thanksgiving Holiday period should restore confidence, at least temporarily.

As Ed Thomas, chief executive officer of the Wet Seal says: "Although we are pleased with our progress in the third quarter, we have seen a notable decline in comparable store sales trends during the first half of November, versus October results, in both of our operating divisions.

"We believe, at a minimum, that the consumer is taking a pause after Halloween and before the start of the holiday shopping season. With this ongoing situation, we will continue to manage our business very conservatively."

It is just this kind of unpredictability that has led so many US specialist retail chains, including Stage Stores, New York & Company and Shoe Carnival, to slash inventories, becoming leaner and meaner businesses.

It appears to be a simple equation. As Ann Taylor CEO Kay Krill says today (20 November): "Our results for the quarter were a direct result of our strategy to maximise gross margin performance by tightly managing inventories, focusing on full-price selling and controlling costs."

However, while retailers are taking these measures to allow for lower top-line sales during the recession, order books further down the supply chain are drying up.

The upcoming holiday season should spur on manufacturers, who will then hope that clothing doesn't get cut from consumer 'restructuring plans' in 2010.