What happened

The stock of Burlington Stores (NYSE:BURL) outperformed a strong market last month by rising 15% compared to a 13% increase in the S&P 500, according to data provided by S&P Global Market Intelligence.

The rally only erased part of the previous month's losses, though, and shares remain lower by more than 20% so far in 2020.

A shopper holding bags inside a mall.

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

Most of the clothing retailer's stores were closed for the entire month due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet investors found a few reasons for optimism in Burlington's operating updates. On April 13, CEO Michael O'Sullivan and his team announced salary cuts for executives along with furloughs and a range of other moves aimed at preserving cash while the store base remains closed .

Now what

It's impossible to know the exact timing or scale of the eventual sales rebound that will follow the COVID-19 threat. But it seems likely that the pandemic will bring significant one-time costs and the potential for lingering sales and profit pressures that extend until at least late 2020.

Those risks help explain why investors are being cautious about Burlington's stock today, especially since the retailer had been struggling with weak results even before the disruption hit its industry.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.