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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.