Macy's (NYSE:M) has been sinking under the weight of trying to compete in the digital age. The chain has been closing stores and losing sales, and its most recent quarterly earnings report shows that the bleeding has not stopped.

What happened

To put it bluntly, the retail chain had a lousy quarter. Sales fell by 7.5% to $5.338 billion compared to the first quarter last year. In addition, comparable-store sales dropped by 4.6%, which overrides the argument that the sales drop can be overlooked because it's due to store closings. Macy's also saw earnings per share drop to $0.24 down from $0.37 in Q1 2016.

Investors did not like those trends, and shares in the company, which closed April at $29.22, finished May at $23.50, a nearly 20% drop, according to data provided by S&P Global Market Intelligence.

M Chart

Image source: YCharts.

So what

Macy's has been taking steps to correct its business failings, and so far, there's little evidence the company will turn itself around. Of course, CEO Jeff Gennette said in his remarks in the earnings release that everything is going to plan.

"Our first quarter sales and earnings results were consistent with our expectations, and we remain on track to meet our 2017 guidance," he said, contibuing:

We are encouraged by the performance of the pilot programs we tested last year in categories like women's shoes, fine jewelry, and furniture and mattresses. We look forward to expanding these successful initiatives nationally this year and anticipate they will have a measurable impact on our performance starting in the second quarter, building through the fall.

That sounds nice, but the actual results suggest that speculative programs that may help going forward have not convinced investors. Macy's is taking steps, but it has yet to show that they will work.

A Macy's store

Macy's has disappointed with its results for the past few quarters. Image source: Macy's.

Now what

Investors are right to be skeptical of any retailer until it shows signs of stabilizing. Macy's has been in steady decline, and plans for the future no longer mollify shareholders, who have seen the fates of other retailers.

Macy's has a runway to fix its business as it's still making money. But, to convince investors its efforts will work, it has to show some positive results, and that has yet to happen.

Daniel Kline has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.