By most accounts, it was a strong holiday season for America’s retailers. Consumer confidence has surged, thanks to low unemployment and the “Trump Bump” pushing stocks skyward, and analysts projected holiday spending would be up as much as 10% compared to the 2015 season.
But not every part of retail fared well. In fact, it appears to have been a fairly awful season for the one segment that used to dominate holiday shopping: department stores.
This week, Macy’s named 68 locations around the country it will close, out of a planned 100 store closures in the immediate future. (Scroll down to see the full list of Macy’s store closings.) Some 10,000 employees will be cut as well. Rival Kohl’s offered some similarly bleak announcements, telling investors on Wednesday that comparable store sales declined 2.1% in November and December compared to the same period in 2015.
On the same day, Sears announced that 78 more Kmart stores and 26 flagship retail locations would close this spring. The company, understandably strapped for cash, also just agreed to sell the iconic Craftsman brand to Black & Decker for $900 million.
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Stock prices for most department stores have cratered. Shares of Macy’s and Kohl’s plunged roughly 14% and 19%, respectively, in afternoon trading on Thursday, and department store competitors such as Nordstrom and J.C. Penney slid as well, albeit to a lesser extent.
While alarming, the dramatic decline of America’s department stores should come as no surprise. The start of 2017 actually looks eerily similar to the start of 2016, when MONEY was reporting that mall “anchor stores” like J.C. Penney, Sears, and Macy’s were closing left and right.
If anything, the struggles of department stores during the 2016 holidays should serve mostly to reinforce the idea that there is no magical formula that traditional retailers can use to reverse trends that have been years in the making. Consumers have grown steadily more comfortable making the bulk of their purchases online, and they’ve come to expect low prices, deep discounting, and a huge selection of rapidly changing merchandise—all factors that undercut the classic, slow-moving department store model.