The so-called "retail apocalypse" has been relentless in beating down certain retailers. Even as they change strategies, close stores, and try new things, winning back customers has been a challenge for some chains. 

Macy's (NYSE:M), Dick's Sporting Goods (NYSE:DKS), and Office Depot (NASDAQ:ODP) have all been affected. While none of the three is in imminent danger of going bankrupt, all of them have struggled. In August, the three chains all reported quarterly earnings, and the news was not good. Shares in each company dropped afterward, at least partly on fears that a turnaround won't be coming soon, if ever.

The exterior of a Macy's store

Macy's has been struggling for answers in a changing retail world. Image source: Getty Images.

What happened with Macy's?

Macy's has been performing in line with its guidance, but shareholders are unhappy with its declining sales. In Q2 the company saw sales drop 5.4% to $5.52 billion versus the same period last year. In addition, comparable-store sales fell 2.5% on an owned-store plus licensed-store basis.

In reality, the news could been much worse, but investors reacted badly. Shares in the company closed July at $23.75 and then dropped to $20.77 at the end of August, a 12% loss, according to data from S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Despite the market's negative reaction, CEO Jeff Gennette remains positive. His remarks in the Q2 earnings release pointed out that the company remains on track to meet its 2017 sales and earnings guidance.

"We are working with a mindset of continuous improvement and will adapt our business in order to reach our goal of stabilizing the brick-and-mortar business while investing for accelerated growth in digital and mobile," he said. "Key to this strategy is engaging our customers with an improved experience that includes more elevated and exclusive assortments, a better integration of technology both online and in the store, and additional enhancements intended to drive traffic and sales."

What happened with Dick's?

While Macy's had a down quarter, Dick's saw a year-over-year increase in earnings per share and sales. Net sales rose by 9.6% and same-store sales were up 0.1%, while e-commerce sales rose 19%. Net income on a non-GAAP basis came in at $0.96 per share, below the company's forecast of $1.02 to 1.07.

That slight negative, plus the company's forecast for comparable stores to come in flat or slightly negative for the full year, probably contributed to the stock drop. After finishing July at $37.34, shares in the sporting-goods retailer closed August at $37.34, a nearly 30% decline, according to data from S&P Global Market Intelligence.

In the earnings release, CEO Edward Stack correctly pointed out that it was a strong quarter. He pointed out that earnings were up and the chain has gained market share, while noting that the road ahead would not be without challenges.

"We continued to capture market share and generated strong results in e-commerce, footwear, and golf, although sales were pressured by weakness in hunting, licensed, and athletic apparel," he said. "By design, we will be more promotional and increase our marketing efforts for the remainder of the year, as we will aggressively protect our market share."

What happened with Office Depot?

In its most recent quarter, Office Depot saw profits sink to $21 million, or $0.04 per share. That's down from $232 million, or $0.41 per share, a year ago, but that's deceptive because the 2016 quarter included $250 million of income related to the a termination fee from the company's failed deal with Staples. In addition, comparable-store sales dropped 6%, after being down 5% in the year-ago quarter.

Unlike Dick's, which had strong numbers that still disappointed, Office Depot's results were lousy. That spooked investors and sent shares from $5.87 at end of July to $4.29 when August ended, a nearly 27% drop, according to data from S&P Global Market Intelligence.

CEO Gerry Smith delivered upbeat remarks in the Q2 earnings release.

"I'm pleased that we have delivered year-to-date adjusted operating income that is ahead of the prior year and we remain on track to achieve our full year target," he said. "Longer term, we are maintaining our focus on executing initiatives to strengthen our existing business, expanding our last-mile advantage, while evaluating opportunities to transform the company for future growth."

Cause for concern

Macy's and Office Depot have shown that despite making strong efforts to reverse their business trajectory, things are still moving in the wrong direction. That's a major concern for investors.

Dick's is an entirely different story. The company's share weaknness shows that investors are very worried about retail in general. That caused the company's stock to be punished when it put up good results that were simply below forecasts.

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