store closing sign
Employment at US department stores has fallen by more than 30,000 in the last year

US retail sales rose by 4.5% in April compared with the same month last year, but department store chains continue to struggle.

JC Penney said like-for-like sales fell by 3.5% in its first quarter, against the same period last year.

Earlier this week rival retailers, including Macy’s and Nordstrom, also reported declining sales.

Meanwhile the US Commerce Department reported that online shopping boomed in April, climbing 11.9% year-on-year.

“That’s the growth area and that’s the whole growth area,” said Howard Davidowitz, chair of Davidowitz & Associates, a retail consulting firm based in New York.

Sales at non-store retailers represented 10.8% of total US food and retail sales in April, the Commerce Department said on Friday. Annual growth in the sector has topped 10% for 12 consecutive months.

But sales at US department stores in April fell 3.7% year-on-year, marking a two-year run of annual declines, the Commerce Department said.

Sales at sporting goods, hobby,…