What happened

Shares of several apparel and accessories retailers closed lower on Thursday. The move follows a broad market decline on investor concerns about an increase in COVID-19 cases in some of the U.S. states that have reopened. 

Here's where these companies' stocks ended Thursday's session with the percentage changes in price from Wednesday's close:

  • Capri Holdings (NYSE:CPRI), owner of Michael Kors and other luxury brands, closed at $16.66, down 14.5% from Wednesday's closing price
  • Designer Brands (NYSE:DBI), owner of the DSW Shoe Warehouse chain, closed at $6.70, down 15.3%
  • Kohl's (NYSE:KSS) closed at $21.26, down 11.2%
  • Macy's (NYSE:M) closed at $6.75, down 15%
  • Nordstrom (NYSE:JWN) closed at $17.16, down 12.2%
  • Ralph Lauren (NYSE:RL) closed at $74.03, down 8.3%
  • Urban Outfitters (NASDAQ:URBN) closed at $17.49, down 6.2%

So what

Investors in consumer-discretionary businesses (like department stores and apparel companies) have been betting for a while that the U.S. and other countries will be able to reopen their economies without a significant surge in coronavirus cases. That optimism has helped drive the broader stock market's gains over the last few weeks.

But the mood seemed to shift on Thursday, as new data showed that hospitalizations for COVID-19 -- an indicator that isn't affected by increased testing for the virus -- have been rising in several states that were aggressive about reopening their economies, including California, Florida, and Texas.

The entrance to a Nordstrom store in New York City.

Will Nordstrom and other retailers be forced to close stores again? Image source: Nordstrom.

The implications for "non-essential" companies dependent on revenue from brick-and-mortar stores are probably obvious to most investors. If state or local governments feel it necessary to re-restrict businesses, or if consumers worried about the virus or the economy (or both) continue to avoid physical stores and limit discretionary purchases, then the companies on our list will be back where they were in April -- and that was not a good place to be.

Now what

There was no news on any of these companies that might help explain their stock-price declines on Thursday. All appeared to fall on broader concerns about the pandemic and its potential effect on the economy — and it's hard to argue that those concerns aren't valid.

Investors in these companies have already come through some rough sailing this year. But if coronavirus cases keep rising, particularly in areas that have fully reopened, there may be more stormy weather ahead. 

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.