Macy’s, Nordstrom & JCPenney Are Releasing Earnings — Has the Retail Apocalypse Ended or Gotten Worse?

Macy's
Macy's store in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.
Courtesy of company

All retail-investor eyes are on department stores this week as a string of heavy hitters gear up to release second-quarter earnings reports. As Nordstrom, Inc., Macy’s, Inc. and J.C. Penney Company, Inc. set out their balance sheets for public purveying, will the results offer hope or more signs of retail’s downturn?

For Macy’s — which has pulled out all the stops, including store closure and layoffs, to address soft sales and digital shifts — analysts are betting that declines in profit and revenues continued in Q2. Specifically, the Cincinnati-based d-store’s sales are expected to tumble 6 percent, to $5.52 billion with earnings per share shedding 8 cents year-over-year, to 54 cents per share.

Despite management’s attempts to revive sluggish business trends, Macy’s critics have said the store’s assortment and overall experience fails to meet the demands of the new retail consumer. Nevertheless, Cowen & Co. analyst Oliver Chen — who rates the stock a “market perform” — says he doesn’t think a turnaround is out of reach for the company, which is currently “making the right strategic decisions to diversify long term, with Bluemercury, Backstage, China [Joint Venture] and improving the store experience at top doors.”

“Macy’s needs to capture greater fashion relevance which could improve customer loyalty and drive fuller price selling,” Chen noted. “We think customers are ‘familiar’ with Macy’s but don’t really ‘love’ it.”

Nordstrom, which has also slashed between 350 to 400 jobs to shoulder retail pressures, has generally outperformed its retail pairs — albeit marginally at times. In Q2, market watchers predict that the firm will score a sales gain of 2.6 percent, to $3.74 billion. However, profits are expected to dip 6 percent year-over-year, to 63 cents per share. Among the factors boding well for Nordstrom during the 90-day-period were its mega Anniversary Sale as well as a thriving off-price business at Nordstrom Rack, which has put the retailer in the sweet spot for more price-conscious shoppers.

JCPenney, meanwhile, has felt the pains of apparel softness but has also seen some upside with its beauty business — particularly its Sephora shop-in-shop concept.

“Although JCP suffers from similar negative store traffic, largely from apparel weakness, we feel the company has certain stronger building blocks versus Macy’s, given beauty execution with Sephora, a well thought-out home appliance strategy with market share gain opportunity, proprietary own brands which can benefit from self-driven speed and cost initiatives,” Chen noted.

Still, analysts expect the chain’s losses to widen in Q2, to 16 cents per share, from 5 cents per share in the comparable period. Revenues are also forecast to stumble nearly 3 percent, to $2.83 billion.