2019 has been a record year for store closures in retail.
In the U.S., retailers this year have announced plans to shut more than 9,300 locations. That’s up more than 50% from the total announced closures in 2018, which amounted to 5,844, Coresight said. Previously, the record was for the 8,069 store closures announced in 2017.
Bankruptcies continued to be a driving force. This included announcements from Sears, Forever 21, Payless ShoeSource and Destination Maternity.
Many names on the list are apparel chains, including Gap. More and more shoppers are either turning to Amazon to buy home accessories, or to places like Stitch Fix and Rent the Runway to stock their closets. That has put pressure on businesses that have failed to invest in their stores and websites, or to keep their inventories fresh.
“The shift in consumer habits is driving the success of certain retailers,” Meghann Martindale, the global head of Retail Research at commercial real estate services firm CBRE, told CNBC in an interview. “We’ve seen consumer preferences change. ... The apparel category is the perfect example of that.”
While some are saying 2019 will be an anomaly, and that the worst is behind the industry, others are unsure the bad news is over.
“I think there are a lot more headwinds, and this is nowhere close to being over,” Vince Tibone, a lead retail analyst on commercial real estate services firm Green Street Advisors’ retail team, said in an interview. “Especially over the next five years.”
Most in the industry seem to know there will be more challenges to work through.
“I do think, as we look ahead to next year, we see more stability on the retail front. A lot of the bankruptcies have cleared so to speak,” mall owner CBL Properties CEO Stephen Lebovitz said. “We like what we are seeing about J.C. Penney. Macy’s is investing in its stores. It does feel better.”
But, he added, “there is still some more [turbulence] that we are going to have to go through. ... It’s not a straight-forward trajectory. It will be uneven for the next year or two.”
One reason for the continued turbulence is that e-commerce sales are making up a bigger portion of total U.S. retail sales. Purchases made online account for roughly 12% of retail sales, up from about half of that in 2010, according to an analysis by consulting firm A.T. Kearney. The percentage could jump to 32%, or a third of all U.S. retail sales, by 2030.
Here’s a list of retailers that have announced store closures in 2019.
Sears and Kmart
When former Sears CEO Eddie Lampert’s hedge fund bought his company out of bankruptcy court for $5.2 billion earlier this year, he acquired 425 Sears and Kmart locations. He argued at the time that his offer was the best option to keep stores open and save thousands of jobs. However, locations continue to close. In November, the brands’ parent company Transformco said it would shutter another 96 locations. Liquidation sales kicked off at the beginning of December, while the stores are set to go dark by February. These closures will leave the business with 182 locations. At the time of an October 2018 bankruptcy, there were more 700 Sears and Kmart stores.
Walgreens said in August that it planned to close roughly 200 stores in the U.S., which still represents less than 3% of its fleet of nearly 9,600 locations across the country. This followed announced closures by rival CVS earlier in the year. Walgreens said the closures are part of a cost-cutting plan, and will help it focus on more profitable locations.
Women’s fashion retailer Dressbarn, owned by Ascena Retail Group, started to wind down earlier this year. In May, Ascena said it moved forward with this plan in order to be able to turn its focus to its stronger brands, like Ann Taylor and Loft. All roughly 650 Dressbarn stores are expected to go dark by the end of 2019, but some are still in the midst of liquidation sales as the holiday season wraps up. Dressbarn will still live on online, however. Ascena has sold Dressbarn’s intellectual property assets to a subsidiary of Retail Ecommerce Ventures. A revamped website is expected to launch in 2020.
Accessories chain Charming Charlie filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in July with plans to close all 261 of its stores by the end of August. This marked the second time the retailer had filed for bankruptcy in under two years. The company said it wasn’t able to come up with a plan to win shoppers back and “ensure long-term profitability” for the business.
Payless ShoeSource filed for bankruptcy in February, for the second time, and has since shut all 2,500 of its North American stores. That’s the most locations of any one retailer going dark this year. Payless struggled with a heavy debt load and also said in court documents it was facing “unanticipated” delays from its suppliers, forcing it to sell inventory at deep discounts. When it filed for bankruptcy, Payless said it had about $470 million in outstanding debt and it lost $63 million in 2018. In addition to having that debt hanging over it, the company had far too many stores and its corporate overhead was too high.
GameStop said in September that it was on track to shutter between 180 and 200 of its underperforming stores, globally, by the end of the fiscal year. The retailer has more than 5,700 locations worldwide. With more consumers turning to the internet to buy and download video games, GameStop realizes it doesn’t need to have such a massive bricks-and-mortar presence.
Arts and crafts retailer A.C. Moore said in November that it would be shutting all of its stores in the U.S. It had 145. The company said in making this announcement that it became “very difficult for us to operate and compete on a national level.” A.C. Moore has struggled as sites like Etsy have grown in popularity, especially among younger consumers. Some of A.C. Moore’s other rivals in the craft space include Michaels and Jo-Ann Stores.
LifeWay Christian Resources
Christian bookstore chain LifeWay Christian Store said in March that it planned to close all 172 of its stores by the end of 2019, moving its business entirely online. The company had initiatives, like adding coffee bars to certain locations, to try to boost traffic. But they weren’t enough to get LifeWay back to profitability. It lost money for years. In many ways, LifeWay has seen some of the same challenges as Barnes & Noble, as more consumers are turning to the internet to buy books or are downloading them to electronic devices like iPads.
Health-and-wellness chain GNC said this summer that it planned to shut roughly 900 stores, most of those in shopping malls, by the end of 2020. The CEO of the company, Ken Martindale, said the closures are happening because of “the negative trends in traffic ... in mall stores over the past several years has accelerated during the last few quarters.”
Barneys New York
High-end department store chain Barneys New York filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in August 2019, and at the time it said it planned to close 15 of 22 stores, fighting to at least keep some of its iconic shops in New York and California open. But Barneys’ brands and other intellectual property were later sold to Authentic Brands, a brand holding company, which kicked off liquidation sales at all of Barneys’ stores ahead of the holiday season. Only Barneys’ Madison Avenue flagship in Manhattan will stay open for a little longer, in a slimmed-down form, as Barneys’ new owner negotiates with the landlord there.
Teen apparel retailer Charlotte Russe filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February 2019. At one point, the business was going to be forced to liquidate and thus shut more than 500 stores nationwide. But the brand and its intellectual property was sold to North American fashion house YM Inc. in March. YM said it planned to keep dozens of Charlotte Russe locations open. But a large number are still expected to close.
Apparel retailer Forever 21 filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in September 2019. At the time, it had more than 800 stores worldwide. During bankruptcy proceedings, the company has said it plans to exit most of its businesses overseas, in Asia and Europe. It plans to continue operating in its stronger regions of Mexico and Latin America. And it doesn’t plan to exit any major markets in the U.S., though it will shut dozens of stores there. Forever 21 continues to negotiate with landlords to try to earn rent reductions, so the total number of locations that will shut remains unknown. The company was ultimately pushed into bankruptcy because it grew too fast, too large, and failed to understand some international markets.
When kids clothing company Gymboree filed for bankruptcy protection in January, it said it would close all 800 of its Gymboree and Crazy 8 stores. It has since sold the rights associated with both Gymboree and its Crazy 8 brand to The Children’s Place, while Gap has acquired Gymboree’s Janie and Jack brand’s intellectual property, its website, customer data and other assets. Children’s Place has said it plans to relaunch the Gymboree brand with pop-up shops in its own stores, in 2020.
Discount retailer and pharmacy chain Fred’s filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in September 2019, with plans to liquidate and shut all of its stores. It had more than 500. Some retailers have too many stores, some don’t have enough. Fred’s lacked the scale to compete with other discount retailers and pharmacy chains. It had pinned its growth on buying Rite Aid stores, when that pharmacy chain planned to merge with Walgreens, but federal antitrust regulators blocked that deal. After that, it was unclear where Fred’s would find growth.
Home furnishings retailer Z Gallerie filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in March 2019. At the time, it said it planned to shut 17 of its 76 stores. It later found a new owner, DirectBuy, which said it planned to keep at least 32 Z Gallerie locations open. Z Gallerie’s struggles were pegged to the company being late to invest in e-commerce, at a time when Amazon’s dominance was only accelerating, even in the home goods category.
Pier 1 Imports
Pier 1 Imports said in September that it planned to shut about 70 stores this fiscal year, and potentially more, depending on how conversations with its landlords pan out. The company was operating about 950 locations still at the time. Its challenges have mounted as shoppers have navigated to Amazon and other online retailers to buy things like dishes, wall art and the small furniture that Pier 1 sells.
Women’s fashion brand A’gaci filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in August 2019. This marked the company’s second time in bankruptcy court in under two years. This time, in court documents A’gaci said it intended to “close and wind down all of its brick and mortar store locations.” It had 54. A’gaci is one of numerous apparel brands that have either been pushed into bankruptcy or forced to shut stores, as more shoppers buy clothing online or turn to fast-fashion chains like Zara and H&M.
Department store chain J.C. Penney said it plans to close 18 department stores — in addition to nine home and furniture shops — in 2019. The company has already hinted there will be more closures in 2020 and beyond, as it works to whittle away at its massive real estate footprint. It’s hoping to find a turnaround strategy that will allow it to avoid the same fate of Sears and Bon-Ton.
L Brands’ Victoria’s Secret said in February that it planned to shut 53 locations this year, as it has struggled to grow sales at its out-of-fashion lingerie brand. The company previously was closing an average of roughly 15 Victoria’s Secret stores annually. But the brand, which was made famous for its sexy bras and annual fashion show, has lost customers as women have switched to more comfortable bra styles and labels that seem more inclusive — including American Eagle’s Aerie, Third Love, Lively and Adore Me. Victoria’s Secret also confirmed in November that it would be ending its annual fashion show, in a bid to put marketing dollars elsewhere.
Gap Inc. is planning to close about 15 of its brands’ stores, net of any openings and repositionings, this fiscal year. That number, according to the company, includes 130 closures at Gap’s namesake brand. And in turn, the company is focusing instead on opening more Old Navy, Athleta and Gap China locations. Gap fired its CEO, Art Peck, this year, with a permanent replacement yet to be named. Gap is also in the midst of splitting into two separately traded public companies — one that will just be its Old Navy brand. That deal is still expected to close in 2020.
Chico’s said in November that it’s on track to close 75 stores, net of any openings, in 2019. The chain, which also owns White House Black Market and Soma, has been trying to keep its apparel fresh for consumers, who have more options than ever when shopping for dresses, blazers and blouses today. That includes places like Rent the Runway and Stitch Fix. The company still has more than 1,300 locations across North America. As it cuts back some of its real estate, Chico’s has been testing selling some of its apparel on Amazon.
Party City plans to shut about 55 stores in the U.S. this year. That’s more than normal. The party-supply retailer had been closing 10 to 15 stores, on average, annually. The company initially was planning to close 45 locations but raised that estimate in August. There were concerns that Party City was struggling because of a global helium shortage. But the company said it was able to find resources to support its balloons business.
CVS Health said earlier this year it would be closing 46 of its “underperforming” locations in 2019, or less than 1% of its roughly 9,600 stores nationwide. But the drugstore chain, like many retailers today, must work toward culling its massive footprint and adding unique services to stores to keep customers coming back. As it shuts some stores, CVS is adding hundreds of SmileDirectClub shops inside certain CVS locations, offering shoppers a cheaper way to straighten their teeth. It’s also opening up locations known as HealthHUBS that boast services and products like blood testing and sleep apnea machines. CVS has also already announced that it plans to shutter another 22 locations in 2020.
Bed Bath & Beyond
Bed Bath & Beyond, which also owns buybuy Baby, Christmas Tree Shops and World Market, is expecting to shut 60 stores this fiscal year. Previously, it was calling for 40, but it hiked that number after the summer. With its financial performance weakening and activist investors pushing for change, the company tapped Target’s former chief merchandising officer, Mark Tritton, as CEO. A few weeks after his November start, Tritton ousted six of the seven senior executives reporting to him, saying he wanted to bring in “fresh perspective.”
Destination Maternity, which owned maternity brands including A Pea in the Pod and Motherhood Maternity, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in October 2019. At the time, it had more than 400 stores under those various banners. In early December, Marquee Brands said it would be acquiring Destination Maternity’s assets out of bankruptcy court. It said it was “evaluating all aspects of the current business, including its network of retail stores.” It remains unclear exactly how many of Destination Maternity’s locations will ultimately go dark, under the business’ new owner. But at least some are expected to shut.
Shopko filed for bankruptcy in January 2019. Initially, the discount retail chain was hoping to salvage some of its locations in shuttering about 70% of its fleet of stores. But by March, Shopko announced it would be liquidating all of its assets, or more than 300 stores.
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