Stocks fell for a host of retail chains after Macy’s reported its Q1 results.

(Bloomberg)—As Americans abandon department stores, sales at Macy’s Inc. and Kohl’s Corp. are falling even faster than Wall Street expected.

Disappointing results from the two chains sent a broader swath of stocks tumbling Thursday, with investors growing more pessimistic on the beleaguered industry. Macy’s, No. 6 in the Internet Retailer 2017 Top 500, suffered its worst intraday decline in more than eight years, and Kohl’s Corp. (No. 18), J.C. Penney Co. (No. 33), Nordstrom Inc. (No. 17) and Dillard’s Inc. (No. 145) all fell more than 6%.

Macy’s reported a “double-digit” increase in online sales in its fiscal first quarter ended April 29. Executives would provide no further details on web sales, other than to say the department store chain is working on improving its buy online, pick up in store service.

E-commerce was a bright spot in an otherwise dismal quarter for Macy’s in which total sales fell 7.5% over the first quarter of last year, in part due to store closings, and comparable-store sales fell 5.2%, or 4.6% when counting sections of Macy’s stores operated by such other companies as Best Buy (No. 9), LensCrafters and Men’s Wearhouse. Analysts had estimated a 3.5% drop.

“Stabilizing the brick-and-mortar business and continuing the rapid growth of mobile and digital are key to delivering in 2017,” CEO Jeffrey Gennette, who replaced the retired Terry Lundgren in March, told analysts on a conference call Thursday.


Earnings also came in well below projections, suggesting that cost-cutting efforts aren’t moving fast enough to offset the shrinking sales.

The bleak picture left analysts scrambling to reassess the company and its challenges.

“We now believe that our estimates did not accurately reflect the speed at which market-share losses would occur,” Bridget Weishaar, an analyst at Morningstar Inc., said in a note. “Given first-quarter results, we think management will have a difficult time hitting its internal expectations for 2017.”


The job of turning around Macy’s falls to new Gennette, who is up against myriad hurdles, including declining foot traffic in malls, race-to-the-bottom discounts among his competition, and a shrinking customer base.


Gennette aims to nurse Macy’s back to health by slashing expenses, shuttering stores and eliminating jobs. The Cincinnati-based company also is investing in e-commerce and its off-price brand, Backstage. But the efforts have been slow to pay off.

Macy’s shares fell as much as 17% to $24.50 Thursday in New York, the biggest intraday decline since the financial crisis in October 2008. Even before the rout, the stock had slid 18% this year.

Other retailers were punished by investors on Thursday. RH (No. 51 in the Top 500), the upscale furniture chain formerly known as Restoration Hardware, fell as much as 13% after it warned that markdowns were squeezing profit.

At Macy’s, profit amounted to 24 cents a share in the fiscal first quarter, excluding some items. Analysts had estimated about 35 cents for the period, which ended April 29.

Kohl’s reported similarly bleak sales in the first quarter. But its earnings were better than analysts projected. The Menomonee Falls, Wis.-based company posted a same-store sales decline of 2.7% on Thursday, compared with an estimated drop of 1.1%. Its profit amounted to 39 cents a share, 10 cents more than expected.


Like Kohl’s, Dillard’s beat earnings estimates on Thursday. But its comparable sales fell 4% in the first quarter.

Maintains forecast

Macy’s reiterated its forecast for the full year, saying that comparable sales would decline 2% to 3%. It expects earnings of $3.37 to $3.62 a share, excluding certain items.

As part of Macy’s cost-cutting strategy, it is closing 100 underperforming stores—68 of which are being shut down this year. This will eliminate about 4,000 jobs, on top of 6,200 cuts announced in January.

The company is looking to generate annual savings of $550 million, beginning this year. The money will be pumped into the retailer’s e-commerce business, Chinese operations and other units, such as its Bluemercury makeup division.


Macy’s is also looking for more real estate transactions, which generated about $673 million in cash proceeds in the last fiscal year. Brookfield Asset Management was hired in November and given a two-year window to create development plans for about 50 of Macy’s real estate assets.

Macy’s recently ended a 2015 agreement that allowed Men’s Wearhouse (No. 112), a division of Tailored Brands Inc., to offer tuxedos within its department stores. The costs of the endeavor were higher than expected, and it didn’t generate enough of a return.