Australia's recreational speed boaters, campers and fishermen appear to have closed their Velcro wallets in the past six months and thus played havoc with the sales of this group's biggest supplier - Super Retail Group.

The company, which also owns sporting goods company Rebel, Supercheap Auto, BCF (Boating, Camping and Fishing), Ray's Outdoors and Workout World, has been operating in a parallel universe in the retail galaxy.

While most discretionary retailers have been struggling to contain declines in sales over the past couple of years, Super Retail Group has been a standout performer, increasing sales by 4 per cent to 5 per cent.

It captured the wave of consumers looking for lifestyle products, which included holidaying and hobbies rather than apparel.

Referred to (rather unkindly, I think) as the company that caters to bogans with money, Super Retail has consistently bucked the disappointing trend set by other shop owners.

But on Friday Super Retail fell back to earth - it downgraded sales forecasts and analysts set to work to adjust their earnings estimates to the real world.

The share price dived faster than BCF's heaviest sinker, down 24 per cent in morning trade. Although the share price slaughter abated a bit as the day wore on and the shock wore off, the punishment was severe.

A large part of Super Retail's trouble is its own success. Sales for the six months to December 28 were up 6 per cent, but investors expected better. The stock was priced for growth, trading on a price-earnings ratio of around 24 times, which suggested good times without much risk.

The company has now guided the market to expect profit growth over the same period of 0.7 per cent to 2.3 per cent. This compares with analysts' previous expectations that the full-year net profit would come in around 17 per cent higher.

This won't happen, and analysts are more likely to shoot for full-year earnings to be about 4 per cent up on last year. It could be that for some time at least investors will treat Super Retail like other stocks in the sector - challenged and struggling for growth.

The expectations that the company could continue to buck the trend were unrealistic despite the fact its management is well regarded and its ambitious acquisition-led growth plans have been largely successful.

There were a couple of unexpected issues that snared Super Retail Group, in particular omni-channel IT glitches played havoc with its sports division.

The management also pointed out the slowing in the mining industry as a factor affecting sales. (This suggests the well-paid miners had previously been spending up on boating, fishing and camping equipment and DIY car renovation, and are now watching their pennies more closely.)

Chief executive Peter Birtles says the IT issues have now been addressed, but his crown has been sufficiently tarnished that investors will likely demonstrate some caution before being hooked again.

Super Retail Group is still travelling better than most retail stocks in terms of profit. The feedback from most retailers is that the all-important December/January period delivered better sales than the previous year.

It is too early to extrapolate that the retail recovery is in full swing. One of the features of the Christmas period was a return to heavy discounting, which bolstered sales numbers. But there is no certainty that the positive sentiment will continue after discounting.

The short post-election honeymoon period is over and wages growth remains slow while employment concerns continue.

However, the market is factoring some measurable improvement in retail this calendar year.

In a broad sense, apparel was seen as weak but, according to Citigroup, David Jones will come in with a better Christmas than Myer.

Myer's online meltdown over the sales season will cement its No. 2 ranking among the full-service department stores.

Investors should not expect any real improvement from Target, which is only just getting over its excess inventory problems and probably won't come up for air until the middle of the year under new management.

The biggest winner was electronics, and JB Hi-Fi continues to be the best pick. However, there will be plenty of focus on the newly listed Dick Smith, which needs to match its prospectus forecasts.