What happened

Shares of many retail-chain companies were rising on Tuesday morning as investors in consumer discretionary stocks grew more optimistic about the post-coronavirus recovery in North America and Europe. 

Here's where things stood for these companies' stocks as of 11:45 a.m. EDT, relative to their closing prices on Monday.

  • Designer Brands (NYSE:DBI) shares were up 16.8%.
  • Gap (NYSE:GPS) shares were up 12.9%.
  • Kohl's (NYSE:KSS) shares were up 27.9%.
  • Macy's (NYSE:M) shares were up 10.3%.
  • Nordstrom (NYSE:JWN) shares were up 16.5%.

So what

All of these companies' stocks have been hit hard since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in North America, and for an obvious reason: All of them closed their brick-and-mortar stores in mid-March, all have lost a lot of revenue, and it's still not clear when they'll be able to reopen.

But investors are feeling more optimistic this week than they had been, in part because of new data suggesting that social-distancing measures might be slowing the rate of new COVID-19 cases, and partly because of some data points suggesting that consumers -- or at least, affluent consumers -- have continued to shop online while sheltering at home.

A Nordstrom sign on the exterior of a store

Nordstrom's physical stores will remain closed indefinitely, but its online storefronts are up and running. Image source: Nordstrom.

Here are the most recent developments for each of these companies, as of Tuesday morning. 

  • Designer Brands, the parent of DSW Designer Shoe Warehouse and other shoe-store chains, hasn't released an update since March 25, when it said that most of its employees would go on unpaid leave as of March 29. (Those employees will retain their benefits while on leave.) Remaining employees -- mostly those supporting the company's online stores -- will take salary reductions. Its brick-and-mortar stores have been closed since March 17.  
  • Gap has paused all production of clothing and accessories for the fall season and has asked suppliers not to ship products for its brick-and-mortar stores, according to a Monday report from the Business of Fashion. Gap is only accepting shipments of products for its online platforms, according to the report, which cites an email sent by Gap to its vendors. Gap last week furloughed most of its store teams in the U.S. and Canada, more than 80,000 people, as it moves to conserve cash to ride out the pandemic. 
  • Kohl's said on March 30 that its store employees and some corporate employees have been furloughed (with benefits, but not pay) until stores reopen, and that it has drawn down $1 billion from its line of credit and cut about $500 million from its capital-spending plan. It has not yet cut its dividend, but it is "evaluating" the possibility. Its online stores remain open.
  • Macy's has had an especially tough time: It furloughed most of its workers, saw its once-sterling credit rating cut to junk levels, and was informed that its stock will be demoted from the S&P 500 to the S&P 600 Small Cap Index this week. To add insult to injury, Chief Financial Officer Paula Price said today that she will leave the company as of May 31. It's no surprise that Macy's shares have been clobbered over the last few weeks, but given that it remains a retail powerhouse, it's also no surprise that value-hunters have been snapping up its shares today.
  • Nordstrom's stores are closed, its dividend has been suspended, and its retail employees were furloughed as of April 5. But Nordstrom is making the most of its situation by boosting sales via its successful online storefronts. The company generated about a third of its revenue from its online full-price Nordstrom and off-price Nordstrom Rack storefronts last quarter, and since the brick-and-mortar shutdown, it has continued to fulfill orders both from its shuttered stores and from its fulfillment centers as local social-distancing measures have allowed. 

Now what 

While all of these companies have been good about updating investors about COVID-19-related developments, we'll have to wait a while to get formal updates from management teams:

  • Designer Brands typically reports its fiscal first-quarter earnings in late May.
  • Gap will likely report its fiscal first-quarter results in mid-June.
  • Kohl's usually reports its fiscal first-quarter results in late May. 
  • Macy's annual meeting of shareholders is scheduled for May 15.
  • Nordstrom typically reports its fiscal first-quarter results in late May.

Until then, investors will have to watch and wait to see how the pandemic -- and its economic aftermath -- will play out for these companies.