What happened

Shares of Sears Holdings (NASDAQOTH:SHLDQ) were sliding today in a broad-based sell-off in department store stocks after much of the industry reported earnings at the end of last week.

The stock closed down 9.9% today, while J.C. Penney was down 6.9%, Kohl's stock was off 4.3%, and both Macy's and Nordstrom gave up 3.3%.

The exterior of a Sears department store

Image source: Sears Holdings.

So what

There was no news out on Sears today, but investors seemed to return to their pessimism on the department store sector after mixed earnings reports last week. While J.C. Penney and Macy's both spiked on their earnings reports, the results were far from perfect. Macy's reported a 4% decline in comparable sales, and said that earnings per share improved, though that was mostly due to a gain on a real estate sale. At J.C. Penney, in the meantime, comparable sales increased 1.7%, though that came at a cost as gross margin fell 320 points to 34%. In other words, Penney slashed prices in order to move merchandise.

Sears has not yet reported third-quarter earnings, but the report is expected later this month.

Now what 

Sears stock fell last week when the company announced an agreement to free up money to help pay pensions and released preliminary results for the quarter. The retailer said total sales fell 26% in the quarter to $3.7 billion as comparable sales plunged 15.3%, but it also said it expected adjusted EBITDA to improve by at least $100 million.

Sears shares hit an all-time low today. With comparable sales falling by double digits and little encouragement in reports from its peers, I'd expect the company to continue to limp into its earnings report.

Jeremy Bowman owns shares of J.C. Penney. The Motley Fool recommends Nordstrom. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.