considering the number of apparel
retailers on the ground and online, it would appear to be a winning category.
But broad sales trends are not in the sector's favor.
Several apparel retailers are
struggling. Ascena is regrouping as sales plummet, unloading its discount
banners entirely. L Brands is propped up by its personal care brand Bath &
Body Works as Victoria's Secret loses share. J. Crew is in disarray, hobbled by
debt and putting its hopes into its much smaller Madewell brand.
Profits in the segment were down
24% in the first quarter, according to a Retail Metrics note cited by CNBC, the
worst showing since the first quarter of 2008, when they fell 40%. Department
stores aren't faring much better. Their "departments" have been
reduced to mostly apparel, plus some beauty and home goods, a stark contrast to
their heyday when they sold everything from books to wine.