By Phil Wahba
December 25, 2017

For the retail sector, it’s been the best of times and it’s been the worst of times this year.

The year 2017 will go down as one of the most brutal in the industry’s history in terms of bankruptcy filings and store closings (8,000 across various national chains.) Major retailers such as Toys R Us, The Limited and Hhgregg filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, their financials unable to withstand declining sales and heavy debt loads. (Some, like Hhgregg liquidated, while others hope to re-emerge as leaner companies.)

And many other chains closed enormous numbers of stores, including J.C. Penney (jcp), Macy’s (m), Sears Holdings (shld) and even Michael Kors. (kors) to “rightsize” their fleets in reaction to weaker sales and the shift of much of their business online.

But for all the talk of deep, chronic deep malaise in the sector, this is hardly the retail apocalypse described in countless headlines. Indeed, there have been plenty of reasons to be optimistic, especially with the strong end to the year.

Retailers as disparate as Dollar General (dg) and Neiman Marcus, not to mention giants like Walmart (wmt), Home Depot and Costco Wholesale, have been reporting strong sales gains, showing that they are adapting to the era of (amzn) and in many cases, successfully reinventing themselves.

Walmart has proven itself to be a formidable competitor to Amazon, Target’s new private label clothing brands have quickly won over customers, and even apparel retailers like Gap Inc (gps) and Abercrombie & Fitch (anf) seem just about poised to end years of weak business at their respective flagship brands.

To be sure, stores have been enjoying a perfect storm of conditions conducive to consumer spending, with unemployment at multi-year lows and wages finally starting to rise. And expect a certain number of retail bankruptcies next year. But on the whole, 2017 may prove to be the year retail finally finished its shakeout and showed it could adapt to its new reality.

Here is a look back at some of the big retail stories of the last year.


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