What happened

DSW (NYSE:DBI) shareholders have had a rough year so far. According to data provided by S&P Global Market Intelligence, the stock lost 16% through the first six months of 2017.

The decline sent DSW to lows that investors haven't seen since 2010:

^SPX Chart

Data is for the first six months of the year. ^SPX data by YCharts.

So what

DSW's first quarterly report of the year, released in March, showed a painful 7% decline in comparable-store sales over the key holiday shopping period. However, the shoe retailer benefited from a mix of cost cuts and higher prices that protected overall profitability. In fact, gross margin increased by half a percentage point to 25% of sales in the fiscal fourth quarter. As a result, adjusted net income shot higher by a healthy 43%.

A rack of shoes for sale

Image source: Getty Images.

From there, operating trends didn't rebound as much as management had hoped. DSW announced in May that comparable-store sales fell by 3% even as gross profit margin worsened. "First-quarter sales were challenging," CEO Roger Rawlins said at the time. Shareholders sent the stock down over 10% in the days following that quarterly report.

Now what

The deteriorating customer-traffic trends in the retail industry have put DSW in a tough operating position; it needs to ramp up costly investments in its online sales channels to position itself for growth. Some of the funds will come from sacrificing its physical expansion, since DSW is scaling back on new store openings and in-store remodels.

The good news is that Rawlins and his team still believe they'll generate between $1.45 and $1.55 per share in earnings for the full year. Comps will be at the low end of their guidance range, though, they warned in May. In the meantime, investors are likely to be pessimistic about this stock, at least until it becomes clear that the business has stabilized.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.