Credit Suisse Analysts shined a spotlight on the difficulties facing mall anchors — too many stores, not enough sales dollars — helping push retail stocks down 1.3 percent on Thursday.

This story first appeared in the May 29, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The S&P Retail Index fell 4.25 points to 314.25 as the Dow Jones Industrial Average increased 1.3 percent, or 103.78 points, to 8,403.80.

Citing “structural negatives” facing mall anchors, Credit Suisse downgraded Saks Inc., Dillard’s Inc. and The Bon-Ton Stores Inc. to “underperform” from “neutral” and Nordstrom Inc. to “neutral” from “outperform.”

Credit Suisse analysts projected sales at mall anchors this year would decline 9.6 percent from 2004 levels, while the number of stores will have risen 3.7 percent to 5,182.

“This imbalance presents a structural impediment to the mall anchors reaching prior levels of profitability,” said the investment house.

Shares of Dillard’s fell 8 percent to $9.28, as Saks dropped 6.6 percent to $3.83 and Nordstrom declined 6.5 percent to $19.52. Shares of the thinly traded Bon-Ton bucked the trend and rose 0.3 percent to $3.98.

Credit Suisse noted that capital expenditures by mall anchors fell 22.4 percent to $4.26 billion last year and would fall another 37.4 percent this year. All the anchor stores cited by the investment bank were projected to cut spending, including privately held Neiman Marcus Inc. and Belk Inc., as well as Bon-Ton, Dillard’s, Macy’s Inc., J.C. Penney Co. Inc., Kohl’s Corp., Nordstrom, Saks and Stage Stores Inc.