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The retail apocalypse summed up perfectly in one chart

Long-term trends are buffeting short term retail sector results. News that Sears is selling its Craftsman Tools brand and that Macy's is cutting thousands of jobs really drive home the shift in shopping habits onto the web. The Sears deal suggests the company burning the furniture to heat the house, selling Craftsman to Stanley Black & Decker for about $900 million to stem the cash bleed. The problem is that if you can't get tools at Sears of all places, what's next, doing away with the washing machines? Well, Eddie Lampert, the hedge fund manager turned CEO, lent the company $500 million earlier this week and is talking about selling the Kenmore Appliance and Die Hard battery brands, too.

Meanwhile, middle and upper middle class shoppers have turned their backs on Macy's as it goes full throttle with its JC Penney-style couponing and down market brands. Seven straight quarters of declining revenues are in the books and the company is warning the Street of more bad news ahead. The Cincinnati-based retailer projects sales will be down 2.5-3 percent this year. The company announced plans to close another 100 underperforming stores with 68 of them to be shuttered this year.


"The kids don't hang out at the mall — unless Pokemon-Go leads them there."

Department-store sales were generally weak this holiday season. The extent of disappointment at Kohl's was similar to Macy's, which witnessed a 2.1 percent decline in the last year. Barnes & Noble's revenues slid 9.1 percent and that company can't be excited to see Amazon opening physical bookstores. Victoria's Secret sales are sagging, having suffered a four percent revenue reduction over the last four quarters.

Twenty years ago, the internet was just a blip on the radar but now its sales are more than three times that of department stores. The kids don't hang out at the mall — unless Pokemon-Go leads them there. The adults have changed their buying habits. At $12.7 billion, U.S. department store revenue is $7.2 billion lower than it was in 2001, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Expect these trends to continue.

Commentary by Jack Ablin, the chief investment officer at BMO Private Bank. He is also the author of "Reading Minds and Markets." Follow him on Twitter @jackablin.

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