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Sarah Halzack

Department Stores Find Different Ways to Disappoint

Whether it’s continued trouble at J.C. Penney or an ugly miss at Nordstrom, major chains are giving investors fresh reasons to worry.

Hide your eyes.

Hide your eyes.

Photographer: Ben Nelms/Bloomberg

When you consider the long-term arc of transformation in the retail industry, the lousy results we’ve seen from old-school department stores in the latest earnings season aren’t  at all surprising. But when you take a more short-term view, the performance was an undeniable letdown.

After all, it was only a year ago that Macy’s Inc. and Kohl’s Corp. investors, in particular, were sending shares higher after upbeat holiday and first-quarter performances offered hope they were finding their footing. Their latest results point to areas where they may have gone back a step. Same goes for Nordstrom Inc.; as for laggard J.C. Penney Co., it continued to fall behind.