As has been widely documented this year, traditional brick-and-mortar retailers are in perilous positions as shoppers continue gravitating to online venues. The the SPDR S&P Retail ETF (NYSEArca: XRT), the largest retail-related exchange traded fund, epitomizes this theme as XRT is down 5.2% year-to-date while the largest consumer discretionary ETF is higher by 6.6%.

Adding to the concern for an ETF such as XRT is the fact that the broader consumer discretionary sector, which includes retail, is in the middle of its seasonally strong period. In fact, there are another six or seven weeks remaining in the strongest period of the year for the discretionary sector, but XRT is languishing.

Some short sellers smell blood when it comes traditional retail stocks.

“Average short interest, or bets that shares will fall, for members of the S&P 1500 retailing group now stands at 13 percent of float, according to a report last week from Bespoke Investment Group. That’s the highest level since December 2008,” reports CNBC.

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