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Will 2021’s Dramatic Store-Closing Slowdown Last?

Retailers closed 63 percent fewer stores in 2021 from the year before.

Last year fashion companies exited 4,108 doors, while all of retail shut down 5,080 in 2021, according to Coresight Research.

The Covid-19 pandemic drove 11,060 fashion store closures closures in 2020, thanks to widespread shutdowns that forced many companies into bankruptcy. That was on top of the 9,300-plus U.S. retail stores that closed in 2019. The 2021 closures, though a decline from years past, could portend even more in the years to come.

UBS Securities analyst Michael Lasser expects that another 80,000 doors, including 21,000 apparel, could disappear in the next five years, fingering e-commerce’s hot growth streak as one factor behind future shutdowns. Mall-based locations are at the greatest risk. Lasser believes the U.S. could have just 797,000 stores in 2026, down from 878,000 last year.

The list below is the tally of retailers that reported store closure plans in 2021.

American Eagle Outfitters Inc.

Number: 200 to 225

Backstory: The store closures are at the teen retailer’s core brand, while it grows intimates concept Aerie to $2 billion in revenues by 2023. The closures will leave the brand with between 600 to 700 locations in the U.S. and Canada, with an average lease term of 2.8 years. Chief operating officer Michael Rempell said the company is looking at short-term lease renewals, while leaning into smaller-format stores. Aerie could eventually reach 550 doors by 2023, he said. For the third quarter ended Oct. 30, the company operated 1,121 stores, including 897 American Eagle doors, 216 Aerie stand-alone locations, 187 Aerie side-by-side and three Todd Snyder stores.

Arcadia Group

Number: about 444

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Backstory: The parent of Topshop/Topman went bankrupt in November 2020, putting 444 U.K. stores and 13,000 jobs at risk. Ultimately, Arcadia sold off Topman, Topshop, Miss Selfridge, and HIIT to Asos for 265 million pounds ($363.2 million), while Boohoo paid 25 million pounds ($34.3 million) for Burton, Dorothy Perkins and Wallis but not their 214 stores.

Bed Bath & Beyond

Number: 43

Backstory: The home goods retailer shuttered 43 stores in 2021, part of 200 planned closures amid CEO Mark J. Tritton’s digital-focused turnaround.

Bonmarche

Number: up to 148

Backstory: Bonmarche parent Edinburgh Woollen Mills Group’s (EWM) November 2020 bankruptcy put nearly 225 stores at risk. Purepay Retail, an international consortium believed to be led by former EWM chairman Sir Philip Day, purchased Bonmarche and kept 72 doors open.

Chico’s FAS

Number: about 45

Backstory: The women’s chain planned about 45 stores in 2021, targeting mall-based banners Chico’s and White House | Black Market.

Christopher & Banks

Number: 449

Backstory: The women’s value chain filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in January.

CVS

Number: 900 over the next three years

Backstory: The 9,000-plus-store company plans to close 300 locations each year for the next three years, or 9 percent of its U.S. base. Selling a wide range of products include socks, T-shirts, hosiery and gloves, CVS is refocusing on becoming digital-first health-care destination.

Debenhams

Number: 101

Backstory: The 242-year-old British department store permanently closed its doors on May 15 after going bankrupt and liquidating in December. Fashion e-tailer Boohoo paid 55 million pounds ($75.1 million) for its IP while leaving its expensive stores behind.

Disney

Number: at least 60 doors in North America

Backstory: The entertainment giant said it was closing about one-third of its physical stores to focus on digital.

DSW Shoes

Number: 24

Backstory: The company identified 65 locations that could close over the next four years, including 24 earmarked to close in 2021.

Express Inc.

Number: up to 24

Backstory: The retailer planned to close about 100 doors by 2022, including nine in 2019, 31 by January 2020 and 35 by January 2021. The 24 remaining doors are set to close by January 2022.

Foot Locker

Number: up to 231

Backstory: The retailer plans to close most of its Footaction stores, with up to one-third of the better-performing locations converting to the Foot Locker banner.

Fossil Group

Number: 65 to 75

Backstory: The company widened its net loss to $96.1 million in 2020 from a net loss of $52.4 million in 2019.

Francesca’s

Number: at least 189

Backstory: The women’s chain filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in December 2020, closed 145 of 703 doors, and planned to close 97 more. The new owners promised to keep least 275 doors open, putting 189 stores on the chopping block.

Gap Inc.

Number: 75 Gap and Banana Republic banners in North America and 100 Gap locations in the U.K. and Ireland

Backstory: Gap Inc. detailed plans to close over 225 unprofitable Gap and Banana Republic stores globally, on top of the 115 shutting down by 2023. About 75 Gap and Banana Republic doors were set to close in 2021.  By June 2021 the company closed 19 Gap stores in the U.K. and Ireland. Gap Inc. said it would close all 81 remaining locations in the U.K. and Ireland by the end of September 2021.

Goodwill Industries

Number: 8

Backstory: The nonprofit thrift organization shut about eight doors in 2021.

H&M

Number: 350

Backstory: The fast-fashion chain said it would shutter 350 locations in established markets, while opening 100 in emerging growth markets.

Jaeger

Number: 13

Backstory: Marks & Spencer acquired Jaeger after previous owner Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group (EWM) went bankrupt.

JCPenney

Number: 18

Backstory: The mass merchant had 846 stores when it went bankrupt in 2020 and closed 156 doors when it was purchased at the end of 2020. May’s 18 closures got JCP to its 672 target.

Kmart

Number: 10

Backstory: Only six locations were expected to remain at the start of 2022, marking a steady decline amid bankruptcies and mergers. In July, Kmart closed its last remaining Manhattan store.

Macy’s Inc.

Number: 45

Backstory: In 2020 the company outlined 125 planned closures, including one Bloomingdale’s location. About 29 closed in 2020. The retailer will close 45 locations in the current retail calendar year, with 10 slated for January 2022 and 51 by 2023.

Marks & Spencer

Number: 30

Backstory: The British retailer’s “Never the Same Again” transformation strategy will close 30 stores.

Naturalizer

Number: up to 133

Backstory: Parent company Caleres Inc. planned to close 133 mostly mall-based Naturalizer doors by the end of January 2021 to focus on digital.

Peacocks

Number: 200

Backstory: British value chain Peacocks was part of the Edinburgh Woollen Mills Group (EWM) bankruptcy. A consortium led by EWM’s chief operating officer Steve Simpson acquired the retailer and saved 200 of its 400 stores and 2,000 jobs.

Rite Aid

Number: 63

Backstory: The retailer, which sells a wide range of goods including socks and hosiery, said store closures would reduce costs and save $25 million annually.

Sears

Number: 7

Backstory: When Sears, Roebuck & Co. completed its $11 billion merger with Kmart Holding Corp., the newly named Sears Holdings Corp. operated about 3,500 stores combined under the Sears and Kmart nameplates. Stores under both banners declined over the years, not necessarily a surprise given that both were struggling retailers at the time of the merger. The store declines were also likely exacerbated by Sears Holdings CEO Edward Lampert, who as a financial wizard was more focused on the balance sheet than on restructuring the retail operation. Fifteen years after the merger closed in 2005, and one year after the retailer’s exit from Chapter 11 proceedings, there were just 182 stores in operation under the Kmart and Sears banners by February 2020. As more store closures  took place, and with the 10 that Kmart is closing in 2021, there will be just 26 Sears stores and six Kmart locations that will still be in operation to ring in 2022.

Stock & Field

Number: up to 25

Backstory: The outdoor apparel and gear retailer liquidated all 25 doors. Acquirer R.P. Acquisitions said it would keep Stock & Field’s stores open, but didn’t offer specifics.

The Children’s Place

Number: 47

Backstory: Favorable lease negotiations revised the retailer’s store closure plans from 300 to 275 by Jan. 29, 2022, the end of fiscal 2021. It closed 47 locations by the end of October.

Victoria’s Secret

Number: up to 50

Backstory: Another 50 locations are going by the wayside after 250 store closures in 2020. The stores are being rebranded following the company’s August spinoff from former parent L Brands.