What happened

Shares of Kohl's (NYSE:KSS) declined 28.3% in the first six months of 2019, according to data from S&P Global Market Intelligence, as the department store retailer posted disappointing first-quarter 2019 results.

Still, things didn't look this bleak until fairly recently; Kohl's stock traded largely flat between the start of the year and the first few weeks of May. But then shares plummeted nearly 20% in just three trading days before continuing to drift lower over the ensuing weeks after the company's quarterly update hit the wires on May 20.

Kohl's storefront with cloudy skies in the background.


So what

More specifically, Kohl's quarterly revenue declined 2.9% year over year, to $4.087 billion, hurt by a 3.4% comparable-sales decline that was well below the company's own target for the metric to be roughly flat. On the bottom line, Kohl's adjusted earnings fell 8% to $98 million and -- thanks to stock repurchases over the past year -- dropped a more modest 5% on a per-share basis to $0.61, which arrived far short of consensus estimates for per-share earnings growth of 5%.

Kohl's CEO Michelle Gass admitted 2019 "started off slower than we'd like" but also insisted the company was "actively addressing" the underlying causes of its shortfall and remains nicely positioned to benefit from "strong initiatives" to improve its performance in the second half.

Now what

In particular, Kohl's has since moved to expand its Amazon Returns program to each of its more than 1,100 stores nationwide starting July 1, 2019. The company also struck exclusive partnerships with famed designer Jason Wu and licensed sports merchandise leader Fanatics and even significantly expanded its adaptive apparel products to several of its largest kids' brands -- all of which could serve to drive incremental foot traffic to its brick-and-mortar locations.

In the meantime, however, Kohl's now expects full-year 2019 earnings per share of $5.15 to $5.45, down from its previous per-share target range of $5.80 to $6.15.

As such, it was hard to blame the market for so aggressively bidding down Kohl's stock in the first half. And it'll take much more tangible signs of improvement before Kohl's can convince investors its stock is a good place to put their money to work.

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.