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And the disappointing March jobs report was the result of weak performance in retailers, which shed 30,000 jobs last month, up from a 26,000-job loss in February. And more are coming: According to outplacement firm Challenger, Grey & Christmas , as of March chains announced more than 38,000 job cuts, the most of any sector. Consumers are showing their preference for Amazon and other online players. The e-commerce giant reported record holiday sales as it gained market share from traditional retailers. Moreover, since operating income at Amazons cloud computing business more than doubled in 2016 from $1.5 billion to $3.1 billion a year earlier, the company has even more financial flexibility to compete against legacy rivals. Macys, the largest department store operator, is a case in point. Cowen estimates that the chain should operate between 550 and 600 locations, well under managements guidance of about 628. That means 153 stores should close versus the 100 Macys has already announced. Penney, which last month announced plans to shutter 14 percent of its 1,000 stores, likely will need to close about another 26 percent of them, according to Cowen. Gap (GPS) will have to shrink its Gap stores footprint from 737 to 600-650 and close more than 30 percent of its 739 Banana Republic stores, the firm projects. We have worried that Banana Republics brand health, the additional competitive pressure in the contemporary sector, and a consumer preference for strong and deep value could mean that Banana Republic should have a much smaller footprint, the report said. To be sure, physical stores are still necessary.

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