The U.S. is still over-stored, and retailers are back to trimming the number of doors they want to operate.
Barely two months into the year and retailers are already planning store closures at more than 1,800 apparel-focused retail doors. Store closing announcements totaled nearly 7,000 in 2017, with over 5,000 doors actually closed. The rest of those doors were closed last year.
Coresight Research on Wednesday said it tracked 5,524 store closure announcements last year. And the research firm said the number of store closure announcements “so far in 2019 is up 23 percent versus this time last year.”
It’s no surprise that retailers want to realign their store fleet yearly, but over the last three years the trend has been for them to substantially adjust their door count instead of just a few underperforming sites. That’s in part due to the shift in consumer spending patterns in favor of online. A contributing factor is the number of bankruptcies and liquidations over the same time period. That has resulted in an adjustment of the store mix in many malls. Malls that have anchor stores shutting down give consumers in the area one less reason to shop there, hurting sales at stores still operating in those malls .
The problem with too many stores isn’t just a unique blip on the screen for the apparel retailers. Other retail concepts are tweaking their store base, too. Lowe’s is closing a total of 51 stores, 20 in the U.S. and 31 in Canada by the end of this month. And even coffee purveyor Starbucks is closing 150 stores this year, three times its usual average of 50 per year.
Even a bankruptcy filing can shift the plan from just some store closures to shutting down all stores, as was the case in the Beauty Brands filing on Jan. 7. The plan was to initially close 25 stores and keep 33 in operation, but now all 58 locations will be closed as the bankrupt firm tries to find a buyer.
In general, the high number of planned closures was due largely to a cadre of retail bankruptcy filings last month. With more retail bankruptcies expected this year, the number of doors closing will escalate.
Payless Inc. is one of those oft-mentioned retailers on the list of expected bankruptcy filings. If the company does file, it would be its second filing in as many years. Payless operates 3,600 doors worldwide, with 2,700 in North America. A second filing is a guarantee for more doors closing, but it’s also too soon to tell if the value-focused footwear retailer could effect another restructuring or if a liquidation is in the cards.
And in Coresight’s report, the firm said there’s “no light at the end of the tunnel” regarding store closures for the year. Expecting bankruptcies to rise during 2019, the firm noted: “Retail bankruptcies continue at a rapid pace, with the number of filings in the first six weeks of 2019 already at one-third of last year’s total.”
Also keeping close tabs is David E. Simon, chief executive officer of mall operator Simon Property Group. He said during a conference call to Wall Street analysts on Feb. 1 when the company reported fourth-quarter earnings results,”I do think there will be more bankruptcies to come in 2019,” and even hinted at some “rumored things out there.”
So far, here’s a tally of the retailers–by date order-who have said they are closing stores:
Lord & Taylor
Stores cut: 10 stores.
Backstory: Hudson’s Bay Co., parent company to Lord & Taylor, said last year it would close 10 stores, including the Fifth Ave. flagship because the 11-story building that housed the store was being sold to WeWorks. The Lord & Taylor flagship closed its doors on Jan. 3. The retail nameplate still has other stores in operation, including a website and a presence on walmart.com.
Stores cut: 3 stores this spring.
Backstory: Tucked into its report on holiday sales on Jan. 9, the company said it would close three stores, and that additional store closings would be disclosed later this month.
Stores cut: Calvin Klein flagship store on Madison Ave., Manhattan.
Backstory: In a realignment of the North American operations for the brand, PVH said on Jan. 10 that the Calvin Klein flagship store on Madison Ave. would close this spring.
Chico’s FAS Inc.
Stores cut: At least 250 stores over the next three years.
Backstory: In a shift of its retail strategy to focus more on its digital business, the company said Jan. 11 that most of the stores will close in years two and three as leases expire. Closures will be across its Chico’s, White House Black Market and Soma nameplates. At the time of the announcement, Chico’s operated 1,431 doors.
Stores cut: 4 stores closing.
Backstory: The department store said Jan. 13, after disclosing decelerating same-store sales over the holiday season, that it plans to close 4 stores.
Stores cut: All stores, about 900 total.
Backstory: The company filed for bankruptcy court protection on Jan. 14, and said it would shutter doors for its Gymboree, Crazy 8 and Janie & Jack nameplates.
Sears Holdings Corp.
Stores cut: 80 Sears and Kmart doors
Backstory: The company was still under bankruptcy court protection when it identified on Jan. 14 which 80 Sears and Kmart doors it would close by the end of March. On Monday, Sears chairman Edward S. Lampert and his hedge fund ESL Investments completed their purchase of Sears for $5.2 billion. On the horizon are more store closures as the company right-sizes its operation in hopes of becoming profitable.
Stores cut: 6 stores.
Backstory: The five stores at mid-month that will reportedly close this month in the U.S.–one closed last month in Canada–are part of the group of store closures that were disclosed in August.
Stores cut: 150 doors.
Backstory: The chain filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy court protection on Jan. 16, with the expectation of shuttering 38 doors by April. It subsequently said more doors would close, and now the tally is closer to the 200 range.
Stores cut: 23 stores, including Fifth Ave. flagship, and e-commerce site.
Backstory: Parent company L Brands said in September it would shut down the operation. On Jan. 17, doors to the Fifth Ave. flagship closed at 5:00 p.m. for the last time.
Stores cut: 3 stores.
Backstory: After closing one store in early January, Nordstrom said on Jan. 23 that it would close two more stores in early April, one in Norfolk, Va. and the other in Wellington, Fla.
Stores cut: 6 stores.
Backstory: The mass discounter said in October that it would close 6 stores by the end of February.
Stores cut: 94 stores.
Backstory: The women’s specialty chain filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy court protection on Feb. 4, when it said it would close 94 locations. At the time of the filing, it operated over 500 stores.
Stores cut: At least 200 Gap and Banana Republic stores.
Backstory: In an optimization of its store fleet, Gap said in November that it planned to close more Gap and Banana Republic stores. Closures of at least 200 doors are planned, most likely over a three-year time horizon.
The Children’s Place
Stores cut: At least 100 stores, with 300 the targeted goal by 2020.
Backstory: Operating just over 1,000 stores, the children’s retailer last year said it wanted to shutter 300 doors by 2020. At least 100 are expected to close this year.
Christopher & Banks Corp.
Stores cut: Between 30 to 40 stores will close this year.
Backstory: The chain has over 450 stores and, as part of a store-base rationalization plan, the company will close 30 to 40 locations over the next two-and-a-half-years. Chief financial officer Richard Bundy said in a conference call to Wall Street in December that many doors will begin closing in late 2019 as leases expire.
Stores cut: Up to 67 doors this year, and up to 280 stores are slated for closure over the next four years.
Backstory: The company has been rationalizing its store base as part of a multi-year strategic plan. It said last year it would close between 42 and 67 doors this year, beginning in July. It said last year it plans to close up to 280 doors by 2022. The company in 2018 closed 117 stores and leased shops.