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Stocks  | September 3, 2019

With Labor Day here, the summer coming to an end, and just a month left until the curtain closes on the third quarter, it’s a good time to reflect on the performance of the retail sector. The SPDR S&P Retail ETF is up 2% year to date, as the industry grapples with the fallout from the trade war, worries about a recession, shifting consumer priorities, and some poor earnings from stalwarts. Not all stores are hurting, but there has been plenty of pain to go around.

Here’s a look at the three worst-performing retail stocks in the S&P 500 through last week. The benchmark index is up 15% so far in 2019.


Macy’s stock (ticker: M) has fallen 49% in 2019 until Labor Day, making it the worst performer of the big department stores, a category that has lagged behind retail peers in general. The company hasn’t been able to catch a break this year despite a strong holiday shopping season. The shares languished even after its relatively good first quarter, and its most recent earnings report made matters worse. Analysts aren’t optimistic about its future, especially in the midst of a trade war.


Gap (GPS) is another mall mainstay that has struggled to find its footing, falling 37% year to date. While some are looking forward to the spinoff of its stronger Old Navy brand, ahead of that the company has delivered one disappointing quarter after another. It also made the list of the year’s worst stocks that Barron’s cataloged in July.


Nordstrom (JWN), another department store, is 2019’s second-worst retail performer, falling 36%. It, too, saw little cheer from the holiday shopping season, and the stock has languished ever since. The company faces many of the same structural problems—including increased online competition, lackluster mall traffic, and changing consumer tastes—that have hurt Macy’s. Yet even a better-than-feared second quarter and hopes that the Nordstrom family might pull off a go-private deal, which helped the stock, haven’t been enough to overcome the longstanding pessimism.

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