What happened

Shares of upscale apparel and retail operators were up on Tuesday, part of a rally across the retail sector driven by reports that stores in parts of the U.S. will be able to reopen within the next few weeks. 

Here's how these three companies' stocks performed today, relative to Monday's closing prices.

  • Nordstrom (JWN 0.56%) was up 1.7%.
  • Ralph Lauren (RL 0.40%) rose 4.7%.
  • Urban Outfitters (URBN 0.88%) gained 6.5%.

So what

Shares of many department-store and specialty-retail operators were up on Tuesday, following reports that Simon Property Group (SPG 0.93%) will reopen 49 of its malls and outlet centers by Monday, May 4 -- with many more expected to follow later in May.

While business hours at Simon's malls will be limited, at least at first, the news is a sign that the process of getting back to normal will soon be underway. For these three companies, all of which closed their stores in the U.S. and Canada in mid-March, this is good news. 

The entrance to a Nordstrom store in New York City.

Nordstrom's stores are closed for now, but might they reopen soon? Image source: Nordstrom.

That said, investors who follow retailers' stocks will note that the gains posted today by Nordstrom, Ralph Lauren, and Urban Outfitters were all relatively modest, unlike the stocks of more mass-market-focused retail operators. My sense is that this reflects some investor concerns about the near-term prospects for upscale retail: Stores may be reopening, but with so much of the economy disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, it's reasonable to assume that consumers will be spending conservatively for a while.

If that turns out to be true, then Nordstrom might be the first choice of the three to do well in the near term, even though its gain was the smallest on Tuesday. Its well-established off-price chain, Nordstrom Rack, will certainly be able to acquire plenty of outdated inventory from full-price rivals (as well as, perhaps, market share). 

Now what

Investors and analysts following these three companies will no doubt be looking forward to detailed updates from senior managers during their next quarterly earnings reports. Those will come up soon: Urban Outfitters will report on May 19; Ralph Lauren on May 27; and while Nordstrom hasn't announced a date, it typically reports in late May.