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Led by Clothing Retailers, the Number of Chain Stores in NYC is Shrinking

Led by declines in clothing and footwear stores, the number of chain stores in New York City declined 0.3 percent over the past year, marking the first year-over-year drop in national retail locations since the Center for an Urban Future (CUF) began its annual analysis of the city’s chain retailers in 2007.

Backing up anecdotal evidence of empty storefronts across the borough, the slowdown was led by Manhattan, where the number of chain store locations fell 2.3 percent, the sharpest single year decline to date. In every other borough–Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island–the number of chain stores increased this year.

CUF’s 11th annual “State of the Chains” analysis of national retailer locations in New York City also found that a record 124 retailers–37 percent of the 331 national retail chains in the study–reduced their footprint in the past year. This compares to 99 retailers that registered a net gain in stores over the past 12 months and 108 that saw their footprints unchanged. The number of retailers reducing stores was up 91 percent, with 65 of the retailers in the report registering a net decline in stores.

“Overall, our analysis shows that the 331 retailers listed in last year’s ranking reduced their total footprint in New York City by 27 store locations, declining from a total of 7,876 stores in 2017 to 7,849 stores in 2018,” CUF said. “The pullback was most pronounced among merchandise retailers that are struggling to compete in an age of e-commerce, with broad-based declines among retailers selling clothing, shoes, accessories, jewelry and cosmetics.”

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Apparel retailers with declines over the past year included BCBG Max Azria, with a loss of seven stores; Bolton’s down six units; Aeropostale, Club Monaco and True Religion, with five less stores each, and Gap and Dr Jays with for less stores. Shoe companies with declines included Aerosoles, which closed 13 stores, and Nine West, Geox and Fabco Shoes, each shuttering three units.

The biggest gains by far were among cellular telephone services locations, which added 129 stores citywide since last year. Coffee shops had a net gain of 27 locations, with the growth concentrated in half of the eight coffee chains on the list, including Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, Blue Bottle Coffee and Joe Coffee.

A record 18 retailers closed all of their NYC locations since last year, including shoe merchants Aerosoles, Nine West, Rockport, Traffic Shoes, Easy Spirit and Stride Rite, and clothing retailers Afaze and DKNY.

The number of chain stores decreased 2.3 percent in Manhattan, which amounts to a loss of 67 locations. The other boroughs gained stores. However, Brooklyn and Queens each registered a net gain of just three stores. Among all boroughs, the fastest growth occurred on Staten Island, with a 3.2 percent increase, or a gain of 14 stores, followed by the Bronx, with a 2 percent gain, adding 20 stores.

Clothing retailers have had more losses in retail locations than any category in the CUF analysis. Of the 86 clothing and accessories retailers in the study, 32 lost stores and 48 did not add locations. Of the 16 that expanded their footprints, none added more than four locations.