It’s not even half over, and 2017 has already been a year for the record books for traditional retailers. Just not in the way they would like.
National brands like J.C. Penney (jcp, +3.18%), Macy’s (m, +1.56%), and Sears (shld, +1.67%) kicked off the year by reporting awful holiday season results—and then announcing hundreds of store closings. Big names from Ralph Lauren (rl, +0.01%) to Staples (spls, -0.33%) followed suit, bringing the number of national chains’ store closings to a whopping 2,770 as of mid-May. Credit Suisse in April forecast that 2017 would see the highest number of closures since the Great Recession.
Then there are the bankruptcies, including once-vibrant chains like the Limited, Payless ShoeSource, and RadioShack. As of early May, S&P Global Market Intelligence tallied a record 18 retail bankruptcies, already matching the total for all of 2016. The carnage is on full display in the new Fortune 500 list: Household names like Macy’s, Sears, and Kohl’s all took tumbles down the list, as did other struggling chains like GameStop (gme, +2.29%) (falling 19 spots, to 321) and Dillard’s (dds, +3.85%) (which fell 37, to 417).
Symptoms of an industry-wide meltdown? Well, not exactly. Retail industry spending in the first four months of the year rose 3.6% compared with the same period in 2016, according to Department of Commerce data. The National Retail Federation expects that growth to pick up even more this year, thanks to low unemployment and a strong…