Wall Street lacked a clear sense of direction on Tuesday, with major benchmarks ending slightly lower after many market participants seemed content to wait for clearer signs on major issues like short-term interest rate policy and trade negotiations between the U.S. and China. Investors are also paying close attention to how the holiday shopping season is going, and its potential impact on the economy could play key a role in determining the market's direction in early 2020. Yet some news out of the consumer sector was poor, sending several stocks there lower. Casey's General Stores (NASDAQ:CASY), Conn's (NASDAQ:CONN), and Designer Brands (NYSE:DBI) were among the worst performers. Here's why they did so poorly.

Casey's runs out of gas

Shares of Casey's General Stores fell more than 9% after the convenience store operator reported its fiscal second-quarter financial results. Casey's succeeded in making more from less, seeing earnings per share rise 23% even though total revenue was down about 2% year over year. But the company had mixed results at the gas pump, with total gallons sold rising over the period but same-store gallon sales falling 1.8%. Casey's saw better gains in the grocery and prepared food segments, but that part of its business is extremely competitive, and investors didn't seem entirely happy with the company's projections for the coming quarter.

Three gas pumps with different colored handles.

Image source: Getty Images.

Conn's can't keep shareholders satisfied

Conn's saw its shares plummet 33% following the release of its third-quarter financial report. The electronics retailer said that same-store sales plunged 8.4% during the period, with Conn's pointing to what it called "market challenges" in the consumer electronics category along with some adjustments related to its underwriting activity. Investors had also hoped to see better revenue growth than the 1% that the company posted, and despite more favorable credit spreads, Conn's still has to demonstrate that it can survive in a highly competitive environment that's facing significant disruption from e-commerce and other alternatives to its more traditional retail model.

The other shoe drops for Designer Brands

Finally, shares of Designer Brands dropped 17%. The shoe retailer cut its guidance for the full 2019 fiscal year, citing unusually warm weather and tariff-related expenses in holding the company back. Designer Brands managed to produce positive comparable sales during the third quarter, but the 0.3% gain didn't live up to what most shareholders had hoped to see. Looking ahead, the retailer now expects flat comps for the full year. Even with the potential to see low-double-digit percentage gains in revenue, investors are focusing more on profit, and with adjusted earnings guidance getting a haircut of more than 20% from previous projections, Designer Brands needs to do more this holiday season to make shareholders happy.