Changing shopping priorities, a shift to off-price approaches, and movement toward e-commerce are hurting department stores, experts say.
The shifts will reverberate across all retail though, including normally robust fast-fashion, as consumers spread their dollars across stores and toward “experiences.”
Online shopping is helping drive down impulse purchases that help boost sales in brick-and-mortar stores.
Retail is experiencing a “tectonic shift” that will dampen holiday sales but also continue well past that, according to analysts from Evercore.
"The confusing disconnect between the seemingly strong health of the high-end U.S. consumer on paper and actual retailer results is much more a reflection of the tectonic shifts across the retail landscape," Evercore analysts said in a note.
Macy’s and Nordstrom will continue to give up sales to off-price stores, including their own, Barclays senior retail analyst Joan Payson told CNBC.
"I think what we've seen is increasingly a divergence between some of the performance of the discounters, the off-pricers, and even on the lower end, the J.C. Penney's and the Kohl's of the world versus Nordstrom and Macy's," Payson told "Squawk on the Street" Friday. "And it seems as if increasingly there may be a market share shift going on towards the traditional off-price model.”
This is the cannabalization of retail about which Columbia University business school retail studies professor Mark Cohen has warned Retail Dive in the past.
“They’ll do a lot of business. The question is: How much is truly incremental, how much simply represents transfer sales,” Cohen said earlier this year of Macy’s move to open off-price stores it’s dubbing “Macy's Backstage.” “And more insidious than that, how much will it further erode Macy’s brand equity?”
And while department stores have improved their e-commerce operations to compete with Amazon and capture dollars from online shoppers, that’s hurting more than just the sales in stores that, dollar for dollar, go online, Stacey Widlitz, founder of SW Retail Advisors, told CBNC.
"I would argue forcing the consumer online actually hurts sales because you're taking away the impulse purchases," she said on CNBC's "Power Lunch."
That, plus consumer priorities that have shifted to experiences that can be found through electronic devices, eating at restaurants, and travel, is rippling through retail sales. Plus, wage stagnation is helping ensure that consumer spending power is limited even in a relatively healthy economy.