It should come as no surprise that U.S. department stores fared, for the most part, much worse than their other retail peers in 2017.
Faced with the rise of internet shopping hubs such as Amazon, the threat of fewer consumers going to malls to make purchases, a glut of unsold and out-of-style inventory, and big debts coming due, companies including Macy's, Sears and Kohl's are still trying to reinvent themselves in a new age of retailing.
Some of their latest strategies have included opening smaller-format stores and closing less-profitable larger locations, partnering with in-demand apparel brands, making enhancements to mobile apps, and trying to amass a more loyal customer base.
To be sure, Macy's, Sears, Kohl's, J.C. Penney, Nordstrom and Hudson's Bay (the parent company of Lord & Taylor and Saks Fifth Avenue) have all set different goals to achieve in the coming months. Though these department stores are dealing with many of the same headaches, it would be wrong to think they can all come up with the same solutions.
"I think the story of department stores is closely twinned with the story of the shopping mall," Vicki Howard, author of the book "From Main Street to Mall: The Rise and Fall of the American Department Store," told CNBC. "Can [mall] developers continue to find ways to make things appealing? That would be something that could benefit department stores as closures continue."
"These trends usually have deep roots," Howard added about what's happened to department stores in 2017. "I think their fate, in a way, has been written for quite a while now. And their future will depend first on the decisions each of these brands are making, while they also feel the effects of long-term trends."
Among other things, 2018 will bring new management for some department stores, the deepening of strategic partnerships with retailers including Walmart and Nike, more restructuring of real estate, and inevitably elevated talk of Amazon and other influential online players.