Covid-19 has accelerated a retail apocalypse years in the making.
Retailers have been purging their store base since the Great Recession. Even after all those closures, they still have too many doors for current needs, especially in a world where even more consumers—newbies, if you will, to online shopping—have been forced to migrate to digital commerce during the coronavirus pandemic.
And with customers staying home in a world where social distancing remains the mandate, retailers have even less need for their mall-based stores. After all, why bother when those locations become nonproductive due to foot traffic shortfalls. And for retailers who were teetering on the financial cliff at the start of 2020, high debt levels and nonexistent cash flow from temporary store closures certainly didn’t help. Fashion wasn’t exactly top-of-mind as consumers initially shifted their focus to purchases of essential items. Even when stores reopened, limited capacity was just one challenge. Many fashion firms had the wrong merchandise as consumers shifted their fashion focus to athleisure and more comfortable apparel.
As a result, retailers in 2020 were forced to realign their store network and cull doors that no longer fit strategies for 2021 and beyond, while those with too much debt on the books had no choice but to either shut down operations or file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy court protection.
So where are we now?
So far, there were more than 11,000 reported fashion store closures—11,060 to be exact—in 2020 by mid-December, and that’s just for the banners that made news. That total surpassed the 9,300-plus stores that closed just in the U.S. across all retail categories in 2019. And there are many other nameplates globally that have not been accounted for. If the forecast of 100,000 retail doors that’s been projected to disappear by 2025 comes to fruition, shopping centers and strip malls could look very different in the near future. That’s especially true if we get close to the 20,000-25,000 stores that are projected to go dark this year.
Here are the fashion retail and apparel companies that announced store closures in 2020:
Number: 50 to 78
Backstory: Pointing to foot traffic challenges that may not reverse course for some time, DSW’s parent Designer Brands said it plans a 10 to 15 percent reduction of its store base. With a current store network of 524 U.S. stores, that would mean closing 50 to 78 doors. It also operates 145 stores in Canada.
Backstory: The women’s budget chain filed its Chapter 11 petition on Dec. 4 to sell the business to TerraMar Capital. The company operated 558 stores at the time of its filing, but had already closed 137 stores last month. Days after its filing, Francesca’s said it would shutter another 97 stores.
Abercrombie & Fitch Co.
Number: 7 flagships
Backstory: The specialty chain, which includes its teen Hollister brand, began the year with 15 tourist-driven locations and decided to pare down to eight flagship stores back in 2018 as part of its store optimization strategy even before the pandemic began in 2020. As for its mall-based locations, it has about 50 percent of its store leases up for renewal over the next two years, so even more locations are likely to close.
Backstory: The company said it will close 133 Naturalizer-branded stores by the end of fiscal 2020. On a conference call after reporting third-quarter results last month, executives said the brand had been revamped and that this was a good time to exit some locations because those doors were tied to a now outdated positioning strategy.
Number: 4, including one outlet location
Backstory: The U.S. subsidiary of luxury brand Furla SpA saw its wholesale accounts get impacted by the closure of nonessential retailers, as well as a slowdown in consumer purchases at its stores. Luxury brand have been hit hard as tourism declined because of the pandemic. The company filed its Chapter 11 petition to get rid of leases and lower its debt. Before the filing, it operated six full-price freestanding stores and eight outlet locations.
Number: 63 to 88, including 10 locations in Canada
Backstory: The women’s specialty chain operates the nameplates Chico’s, White House|Black Market and intimates concept Soma. In November, it said it closed 28 stores thus far and planned to close another 25 to 50 locations. The company’s Canadian operations in August filed for bankruptcy, according to a regulatory filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The bankruptcy will result in Chico’s exit from Canada, as well as the closure of four Chico’s stores and six White|House Black Market doors in the Canadian market.
Backstory: The company’s three main nameplates are its core Gap chain, Banana Republic and Old Navy. In October, it said it would close 220 Gap stores and 130 Banana Republic locations by 2023. The plan is to have 200 stores closed by the end of this year and another 75 locations in 2021. The balance of the targeted locations will close by the end of fiscal year 2023.
The children’s apparel chain is closing at least 200 doors, or 25 percent of its store fleet. About 60 percent will be close by the end of 2021, and 80 percent by the end of 2022.
Backstory: This off-pricer has been a long-time fan favorite of New Yorkers and tourists. The retailer said it was forced to shut down operations after insurance providers elected not to pay $175 million under policies to protect against business disruptions during the pandemic. The retailer operated 13 stores.
American Eagle Outfitters
Number: 40 to 50
Backstory: The company, which also operates the Aerie intimates nameplate, plans to shutter 40 to 50 locations for the year, with about 250 leases set to expire. It also has another 250 store leases that will come up for renewal next year, which means that more store closures could be on the agenda in 2021.
Backstory: The 281-door department store operator had already let go of most of its employees when it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy court protection. It had been on the watch list of credit analysts for a number of years. The company’s intellectual property assets were sold to Retail Ecommerce Ventures for $6 million, a company that specialized in asset-light operations by owning retail business that sell online only. Recent acquisitions include Dressbarn and Pier 1.
Rent the Runway
Backstory: The company in August said it would close its five store locations to focus on online operations. It also plans to increase the number of drop-off locations.
Backstory: The company said it was closing all 16 stores, choosing to focus on its digital business.
Backstory: Too much debt on the books from its $1.8 billion acquisition of competitor Jos. A. Banks Clothiers Inc. in 2014 was a huge problem, exacerbated by a lack of cash flow when stores closed temporarily to help curb the spread of Covid. The plan was to close up to 500 stores, leaving it with a store base of 775 doors. The company exited bankruptcy on Dec. 1.
Ascena Retail Group
Backstory: The company had been struggling for several quarters, and had already sold a majority stake in Maurices and completed a wind-down of its Dress Barn operations. It denied that bankruptcy was even being considered, but then the impact of Covid and mandatory store closures ended up pushing the company into Chapter 11. At the time, the company said it would close 1,600 doors, with many locations connected to its decision to shutter its plus-size Catherines nameplate. Ascena later closed 23 more Justice doors.
The company has since sold its nameplates Catherines to FullBeauty Brands Operations LLC for $40.8 million in September and Justice to Bluestar Alliance for $90 million in November. On Dec. 8, the bankruptcy court gave its approval for Ascena to sell its remaining brands—Ann Taylor, Loft, Lane Bryant and Lou & Grey—to private equity firm Sycamore Partners for $540 million.
Backstory: The women’s chain filed its Chapter 11 petition in Delaware, and was later acquired in September by Newtimes Group for $12.2 million. It’s 13 stores closed due to Covid in mid-March and never reopened. The online site was relaunched on Dec. 17.
RTW Retailwinds Inc.
Number: 378, including outlet locations
Backstory: The company, which operates women’s apparel chains under the nameplates New York & Co., Fashion to Figure and Happy x Nature, filed a voluntary Chapter 11 petition for bankruptcy court protection in 2020. Saadia Group acquired the New York & Co. and Fashion to Figure nameplates for $40 million, and will operate them solely as online businesses.
Heritage Brands Outlet Stores
Backstory: PVH Corp. operates the outlet stores for its Van Heusen, Izod, Arrow, Warner’s, Olga and Geoffrey Beene brands. The company in July said it would close all locations.
Backstory: The storied seller of American apparel and accessories filed for bankruptcy court protection in July, and was acquired a month later by a joint venture between Simon Property Group and Authentic Brands Group for $305 million.
Backstory: The women’s specialty chain said in July that it would close 11 locations, with plans to have 275 doors by the end of the year.
Number: 420, with 170 locations to close in 2020 and 250 in 2021
Backstory: The Swedish fast-fashion chain decided to increase the number of stores it plans to close to 170 from 130 after posting a 23 percent drop in first-half revenues, and in October said it would shutter 250 doors in 2021. But the 250 locations represent just 6 percent of total doors.
Lucky Brand Dungarees
Backstory: The company closed the stores as part of its Chapter 11 restructuring. The brand was later acquired out of bankruptcy by Sparc, a joint venture between brand management firm Authentic Brands Group and mall operator Simon Property Group.
Backstory: The denim fashion brand, based in Los Angeles, found its business disrupted by the Covid pandemic and filed for bankruptcy protection so its could reassess and restructure its store portfolio. It’s bankruptcy filing in Australia saw the shutdown of all 57 stores in August after failing to find a buyer.
Backstory: Capri Holdings Ltd., which also owns the Versace and Jimmy Choo brands, is rightsizing its Kors store base over the next two years.
The Children’s Place
Backstory: The store closures are projected to be completed by the end of fiscal year 2021, although 200 of those doors are expected to take place in the current fiscal year, as the retailer places a greater focus on digital commerce. The balance of 100 doors will close in 2021.
Number: 71, comprised of 66 doors in the U.K. and 5 in Australia
Backstory: The company fell into administration on June 30 and shuttered all stores.
Number: 100 stores globally, primarily across North America and China
Backstory: Sales productivity across its store network has fallen during the pandemic, and lease expirations give the company flexibility to downsize its retail footprint.
Number: 1,200, or up to 600 stores annually in 2020 and 2021
Backstory: After reporting its first-ever quarterly loss in Q1, the Zara owner is focusing on store optimization as it works to integrate its store and online business. It’s also taking a closer focus on its supply chain to zero in on inventory management, and its using existing store networ to help with the fulfillment of online orders.
G-III Apparel Group Ltd.
Number: 199, comprised of 110 Wilson’s stores and 89 G.H. Bass locations
Backstory: The company restructured its retail operations after deciding to focus on its wholesale operation and its DKNY and Karl Lagerfeld Paris businesses.
Backstory: The company filed for bankruptcy court protection in May, and shuttered 230 locations. It plans exit Chapter 11 before the end of the year with 500 stores still in operation.
Backstory: The mass merchant closed six department stores before it filed its Chapter 11 petition and then closed 154 during its tour of bankruptcy court. It recently exited bankruptcy proceedings when the operating business was sold to its two largest landlords, Simon Property Group and Brookfield Asset Management. On Dec. 17, the company confirmed the additional closure of 15 more doors.
Backstory: The preppy chain, along with its Madewell concept, filed a bankruptcy petition in May. While it plans to reopen nearly 500 doors after temporary COVID-19 shutdowns, the retailer is looking to get out of 67 store leases over time. It already closed eight stores during its tour of bankruptcy proceedings.
Diane von Furstenberg
Backstory: The fashion brand is closing 18 of its stores, leaving just one open in New York City’s Meatpacking District. The brand is refocusing its business to an e-commerce model in the U.S. and Europe, and will continue with wholesale operations in China. The DVF Studio division in the U.K. in May filed for administration, the equivalent of a Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition in the U.S.
Number: 19, comprised of 16 full-line doors and all 3 Jeffrey stores
Backstory: The retailer is restructuring its business following the impact from the coronavirus, with the closures “based on the needs of each market.” The company has also been reducing expenses by restructuring regions, support roles and its corporate organization.
Number: 250 locations across the U.S. and Canada, including 238 in the U.S.
Backstory: L Brands is restructuring the brand after Sycamore Partners backed out of a deal to acquire a 55 percent majority stake in the lingerie chain.
Stage Stores Inc.
Backstory: A bankruptcy in May had the company liquidating 550 reopened stores. The retailer, which plans to liquidate its remaining stores as they are able to reopen, was in the middle of converting its department stores to its off-price nameplate Gordmans. The company is also in the process of selling its assets.
Lord & Taylor
Backstory: The retailer initially closed two locations earlier in the year, but rumblings in April indicated that could be trouble ahead following a reduction in headcount. Lord & Taylor, and its parent Le Tote, subsequently filed for bankruptcy in August and the initial plan was to liquidate 19 stores as the company tried to find a buyer for America’s first department store. It later upped the number of doors to close to 24, hoping to keep 14 in operation. Failing to find a buyer, a decision was made to liquidate and shutter all doors.
Number: 61, including 11 in Ireland
Backstory: After closing 22 stores in the beginning of the year, the retailer declared insolvency in April, representing its second tour of insolvency in one year. It has liquidated all 11 doors in Ireland, and another 28 locations in the U.K. have been closed.
However, the company failed to find a buyer and is slated to shut down its remaining 142 stores in the U.K. Whether that actually happens is unclear. Mike Ashley‘s Frasers Group is in last minute talks to rescue the bankrupt department store chain. This week, word surfaced that American brand management firm Authentic Brands Group is also in talks to possibly take over the ailing chain.
Backstory: Another early victim of the coronavirus, this British fashion and homeware brand shut down all 60 stores in the U.K. Its Japanese counterpart also filed for bankruptcy protection shortly thereafter.
Galeria Karstadt Kaufhof
Backstory: Germany’s biggest department store retailer filed for administrative insolvency, a victim of the Covid pandemic following mandatory store closures to help curb the virus. The company, which operated 172 stores at the time it filed, exited insolvency proceedings on Sept. 30.
Oasis and Warehouse
Number: 92 freestanding stores and 400 concessions
Backstory: Another early victim of the coronavirus, the U.K. high fashion brands fell into administration. Hilco Capital agreed to a deal to buy its intellectual property assets, but two months later the IP and related assets were sold to Boohoo.
Backstory: The British lifestyle brand filed for administration in the U.K. in mid-March. In April, certain assets including the brand’s intellectual property were acquired by Gordon Brothers, which is exploring the chain’s options.
Backstory: Esprit said it would close all of its stores in Asia outside of China. The total store count for the stores in Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan, plus Hong Kong and Macau, is 56.
Backstory: The luxury department store said in March that it will close 20 of its 22 off-price Last Call concepts. It will keep two to move inventory from the full-price stores. Neiman’s subsequently filed for bankruptcy court protection and closed about eight doors, including its massive N.Y.C. flagship that opened in Hudson Yards in Manhattan in March 2019.
Modell’s Sporting Goods
Backstory: The company closed some stores and then filed a petition for Chapter 11 bankruptcy court protection in March, only to shut down due to the pandemic. In June, the remaining 107 stores reopened to begin going-out-of business sales.
Pier I Imports
Backstory: The home furnishings retailer filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy court protection and ended up liquidating when it couldn’t find a going-concern buyer. It initially planned to close 450 stores before filing for bankruptcy, but then the coronavirus pandemic hit, so stores were put on pause as nonessential retailers temporarily closed to help curb the spread of the virus. But Covid also impacted its ability to find a buyer, and the retailer decided to conduct a winding down of operations.
Backstory: The retailer, a nameplate operating under the umbrella of corporate parent Transform Holdco, said in November 2019 that it was closing 51 stores in February.
Backstory: The discounter is part of the corporate holding of Transform Holdco, which said in November 2019 that it would shutter 45 locations in February.
Backstory: The store closures are part of a routine review of the Macy’s brick-and-mortar base. Another 95 ,and possibly even hundreds, are expected to close.
Backstory: The mass discounter has closed three stores, one in Michigan and two in North Carolina.
Backstory: About 31 stores are already closed and it plans another 35 by the end of January. The company’s fleet rationalization includes the nine doors closed in 2019. Another 25 doors could close in 2022, bringing the total number to 100 locations.
Backstory: Acquired in mid-January by streetwear platform New Guards Group, the label will cultivate its brand instead of operating as a multibrand retailer.
Backstory: The U.K. department store declared insolvency in January. A month later, it shuttered 12 of its 23 locations. However, the chain couldn’t find a buyer and the coronavirus outbreak forced the remaining 11 locations closed.
Backstory: The retailer closed its store at The Falls, a mall in south Miami-Dade, in January after 35 years in operation.
Christopher & Banks
Backstory: The company said last year that it plans to shutter up to 40 doors in 2020, part of a renewed focus on e-commerce. The company is now seeking strategic alternatives as their is doubt as to its viability as a going concern.
Backstory: The struggling athletic footwear and apparel chain was sold to sports retailer JackRabbit last year, which elected to keep just 75 Olympia Sports store locations open. That meant that the balance of 76 stores will close this year.
Number: 207 stores globally, including 101 locations in the U.S.
Backstory: The mall-based fast-fashion chain filed its Chapter 11 petition in September 2019. It had initially planned to shutter 350 stores globally, including 178 doors in the U.S. At the time, the chain had 549 U.S. stores and 251 overseas. Most of those locations were slated to close in 2020, following the holiday season that ended Feb. 2. The company was acquired for $81 million in February by a joint venture comprised of Authentic Brands Group and Simon Property Group–each owning 37.5 percent of the intellectual property and operating business–and Brookfield Property Partners, which has a 25 percent stake in the IP and operating company. The new owners said they plan to save about 450 doors that remain open.
Backstory: The maternity wear retailer filed a Chapter 11 petition in October 2019 and was slated to shutter 183 of its 436 doors. It was subsequently acquired by brand management firm Marquee Brands in December for $50 million. Part of that transaction included the closure of the retailer’s remaining 235 stores between January and March.