On Tuesday, Macy's (NYSE:M) reported preliminary first-quarter results that revealed the depth of the COVID-19 pandemic's impact on its business. Sales plunged 45% to $3 billion as most of its department store locations were closed to shoppers in observance of social distancing mandates. This slumping customer traffic generated a big financial strain, leading to adjusted net losses of over $600 million compared to a $136 million profit a year earlier. Per-share losses amounted to $2.03 compared to a $0.44 gain last year.

The news will get worse, too, since that earnings figure doesn't include major writedown and impairment charges that Macy's expects to report in its complete earnings announcement on July 1.

A shopper holding bags on an escalator.

Image source: Getty Images.

Still, management was encouraged by the chain's strong digital sales and the early results from its newly reopened stores. Macy's is also in a good inventory position today, the company said.

But the retailer's wider results will depend on its execution over the next few quarters, especially during the seasonal demand spike in the late fall. "The holiday season will be crucial," CEO Jeff Gennette said in a press release, "and the team is working now to get the right merchandise and assortment in place."