Department stores relevant

Sears may be spared from liquidation for now, but the retailer is still in a very bad situation.

In fact, in the last decade, the company has lost more market share than almost any other retail company. Total revenues at Sears Holdings Corp. fell 67 percent between 2008 and 2018. Meanwhile, total retail sales across the industry rose 35 percent during the same time period. The depressing stats might even surprise some to learn that Sears was once America’s largest retailer.

That got us at WWD wondering who are the real winners and losers in the retail industry. The U.S. Census Bureau’s data on the total retail category extends from 2008 to November 2018, the most recent numbers available. We collected data from individual companies during roughly the same time period. 

After scanning some of America’s largest retailers that sell hard line and soft lines — places where shoppers can buy a new jacket and maybe a toaster in the same store — we came up with a list of which companies are outperforming and which companies are underperforming the market.

While it’s no surprise that Sears is clearly losing the retail race in the age of online shopping, other losers include J.C. Penney Co. Inc., Dillard’s Inc. and Macy’s Inc. J.C. Penney was the second worst performing company. Sales revenues have gone down 40 percent over the 10-year period. Its stock has fallen, too. Company shares are down 66.4 percent in the last year, even briefly dipping below $1 a share in December.


The department-store method of shopping is quickly becoming a symbol of the Baby Boomer generation. But surprisingly, big-box retailers like Target Corp. and Kohl’s Corp. are also losing market share to e-commerce. Sales revenues for both companies rose 18 percent, but that’s still below the market.

The biggest winner was clearly Amazon. Consumers can find almost anything on the platform, from fashion finds to food to lawnmowers, which explains why revenues increased more than 1,000 percent since 2008. 

Off-price channels, like Ross Stores and The TJX Cos. Inc., which includes T.J. Maxx, Marshalls and HomeGoods, also beat the market. Revenues increased by 150 percent and 112 percent in the last 10 years for Ross Stores and TJX respectively, with their ability to stock name brands inexpensively while providing shoppers the treasure-hunt experience that can’t be replicated online. 


A look from Allbirds.  Courtesy

One winner that seems to be bucking the department store trend is Nordstrom Inc. Sales revenues grew 77 percent in the last decade, perhaps because of the store’s savvy for carrying products and brands that can only be found at Nordstrom, or the brand’s web site, including the Something Navy x Treasure & Bond collection, women’s clothing and footwear line Halogen and Allbirds shoes. Walmart Inc. also came out on top, but just barely above the market.



Retail Winners and Losers Over The Last Decade

Sears’ recent near-death experience left many wondering who’s winning and losing in the retail race.
Companies 2008 Revenues (in billions) 2018 Revenues (in billions) Change
Amazon $19.20 $221.00 1051%
Ross Stores Inc. $6.00 $14.90 150%
The TJX Companies $18.30 $38.80 112%
Nordstrom Inc. $9.10 $16.10 77%
Walmart Inc. $377.00 $511.90 36%
Total Retail Sales $3,935.00 $5,313.00 35%
Kohl’s Corp. $16.50 $19.50 18%
Target Corp. $63.40 $74.50 18%
Macy’s Inc $26.30 $25.10 -4%
Dillard’s Inc. $7.40 $6.60 -11%
J.C. Penney Co. Inc. $19.90 $12.00 -40%
Sears Holdings Corp. $50.70 $16.70 -67%
Source: S&P Capital IQ