Outlook not good for JCPenney and other popular retailers

It’s no secret that American department stores are having a rough time. Many are closing hundreds of stores and cutting way back on workforce. For a while, it looked like JCPenney would join competitor Sears on its downward spiral. Last year, “Penney’s” was forced to close around 140 stores and layoff nearly 5,000 people.

Then, after a series of big moves at the top of the company, as well as new initiatives, JCPenney seemed poised to pull out of the slide. Things were looking up, and the brand appeared ready for a comeback.

As it turns out, news of the company’s imminent turnaround may have been premature. The early part of 2018 has been every bit as “brutal” as the worst parts of 2017. The Associated Press and CNN are reporting that JCPenney plans to lay off another 360 people, at both retail and corporate locations. And that’s just the beginning of the bad news. Earnings predictions are out, and JCPenney is predicting to do even worse than expected in 2018. The news caused Penney’s stock to drop by double digits.

And they are not alone…

Barnes & Noble Booksellers, one of the only big box bookstores to survive in the new Amazon-dominated book sales marketplace, recently announced another drop in sales, which pushed the stores stock price to an all-time low, according to CNN.

It’s tough to see how the bookseller pulls out of this skid. A lot of people still love bookstores, but not nearly enough as love the convenience of buying from home, or from their smartphone. While many consumers still love browsing the bookstore, the price and selection online are really tough to beat.

Another company having a rough 2018 so far is L Brands, which owns Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works. Their stock is down about 14 percent. Nordstrom and Footlocker are both hurting too.

What’s the common denominator here? In addition to being brick-and-mortar retailers, these businesses are also commonly tethered to malls… and people are just not shopping at malls like they way they once did. That’s a hard fact all of these retailers — and many others that took mall foot traffic for granted over the decades — need to deal with now. American consumers are shopping and buying differently, and a lot of retailers are struggling to find a way to keep up.

At this point, though, finding a way to keep up isn’t an option. These brands either have to figure out how to compete in the new consumer-driven marketplace, or they will continue to lose out to innovative brands that are giving customers what they want.

Leading consumer PR agencies include 5WPR and Coyne PR.

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