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Macy’s last year announced the closure of 100 stores and laid off thousands

Weaker-than-expected sales at several US department store chains reignited concerns about the US retail sector and prompted investors to offload shares.

Macy’s said like-for-like sales fell 4.6% in the first quarter compared with the same period last year.

The decline sent shares in Macy’s, which also owns Bloomingdales, down 17% on Thursday.

At Kohl’s, like-for-like sales slid 2.7% and were down 0.8% at Nordstrom.

Shares fell close to 8% for both retailers, while Sears sank almost 10%

Hudson’s Bay Co, which owns chains including Saks Fifth Avenue, said its same-store sales fell 2.9%.

Jeff Gennette, Macy’s chief executive, said the company was well aware of the challenges it faced.

“These are unusual and challenging times for retail, especially for mall-based stores. We certainly know these changes that we’re seeing are … not cyclical,” he said.

Can US retailers keep their doors open?

Some analysts said the decline in department store sales point to broader weakness in consumer spending – a key driver of economic growth.

“It’s a gut check about the health of the consumer,” said Phil Blancato at Ladenburg Thalmann Asset…