Department stores rebound, but have a long way to go

Marielle Segarra Aug 20, 2021
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Customers enter a Kohl's store on Aug. 21, 2018 in San Rafael, California. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Department stores rebound, but have a long way to go

Marielle Segarra Aug 20, 2021
Heard on:
Customers enter a Kohl's store on Aug. 21, 2018 in San Rafael, California. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
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Let’s face it, department stores have not fared very well in the pandemic. Some chains filed for bankruptcy, others shut down stores.

“I think that consumers were looking in general for one-stop shopping and favored stores that allowed them to buy both food and other consumables alongside other things like apparel,” said Bryan Eshelman at the consulting firm Alix Partners.

Stores like Target and Walmart.

Things have looked a little brighter for department stores, but it doesn’t mean they’re back, said Mark Cohen, director of retail studies at Columbia Business School.

“There’s an exhilarating recovery in place, except that it has to be compared against the trends that preceded COVID,” he said.

Alix Partners found that in the first quarter of this year, department store sales were still down by 11% compared to the first quarter of 2019. But this week we did see positive quarterly earnings from Macy’s and Kohl’s. And now comes a report in the Wall Street Journal that Amazon is planning to open a few physical locations that are, essentially, department stores.

Cohen said regardless of whether Amazon opens a few department store-esque locations – it hasn’t confirmed the news, by the way – the problems facing the sector are not going away.

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