What happened

Retailers (and retailers of clothing and footwear in particular) took it on the chin in Monday trading that saw stocks initially fall, then gain back some losses, but ultimately end in the red, with the S&P 500 down almost precisely 1%.

By the close of trading, shares of Under Armour (UA -0.45%) (UAA -0.29%) had shed 6.6% of their market cap, while both Foot Locker (FL -1.73%) and American Eagle Outfitters (AEO -0.14%) had lost 7.6%.

3 red arrows going down and crashing through the floor

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

Globally, the coronavirus pandemic continues to take its toll on the economy, and on human lives. The latest data out of Johns Hopkins University shows that we just passed 1.9 million total confirmed COVID-19 infections worldwide. Total deaths are approaching 119,000, a mortality rate exceeding 6%.  

Now what

And all of this is happening against the backdrop of a looming earnings season. In just a couple of weeks, on May 1, the first of the three stocks named up above, Under Armour, is due to report its fiscal Q1 earnings results. The next, Foot Locker, won't release earnings until three weeks later, and American Eagle investors should be safe from having to read bad earnings news until June.  

By that point, one might hope that the worst of the crisis will have passed us by, and things will be looking up for the economy. Before June can arrive with its hope of a return to normalcy, however, we still need to survive another month and a half of potentially very bad news on the health front, and bad earnings reports to boot.

For six long weeks, investors can expect to be pummeled on a daily basis with poor earnings reports from the companies they own, and those companies' competitors. For retail investors, it could all begin with Under Armour, with Wall Street analysts' forecast of a big $0.21 per share loss, and a 25% decline in sales.

How badly that shakes investors' confidence in other retailers remains to be seen.