What happened

Shares of several retail-chain operators were lower on Thursday afternoon amid a broad-based market decline following new unemployment and consumer-spending figures.

Here's how shares of these four companies were faring as of 1:30 p.m. EDT on Thursday, relative to their closing prices on Wednesday.

So what

It's not much of a mystery why the U.S. markets are down today: New figures from the U.S. government showed more than 3.8 million new unemployment claims last week and a 7.5% decline in consumer spending in March.

It's not news to retail-store investors that things aren't going well, however. All four of the companies listed here closed most of their physical stores in mid-March and have been scrambling to conserve cash since.

But there are signs that things will improve for retailers soon, even though "back to normal" might still be months away. The U.S.'s largest shopping-mall operator, Simon Property Group (NYSE:SPG), said earlier this week that it plans to reopen 49 of its malls and outlet centers by next Monday, May 4.

A Macy's sign on the outside of a store.

Macy's hopes to have all of its U.S. stores reopened by mid-June, management said. Image source: Macy's.

Macy's has also confirmed that it will be reopening some of its stores next week. It plans to resume operations at 68 locations on Monday in states that are loosening stay-at-home measures imposed to help slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus. More stores will open in waves over the following weeks, the company said. Macy's aims to have all of its roughly 750 U.S. locations open by mid-June, as local governments allow.

But even as stores reopen, it'll be a while before the need to conserve cash passes. As if to emphasize that point, Kohl's said in a regulatory filing that it raised $600 million to bolster its balance sheet via a bond issue on Wednesday. Kohl's new bonds will pay 9.5% and are due in 2025.

Now what

Investors heard from Bed Bath & Beyond's management team when the company reported quarterly earnings on April 16. Investors in Gap, Kohl's, and Macy's will have similar opportunities soon: All three are expected to report earnings in the second half of May.