Report: More than 9,300 store closures announced in 2019

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Retail group says more attention should be paid to large amount of stores opening.

Nearly double the amount of stores nationwide closed in 2019 compared to last year, but at least one national retail entity says those numbers don’t represent the big picture.

In the United States, 9,302 stores have closed, compared to 5,844 closures announced during 2018, a 59.1 percent increase, according to global marketing research firm Coresight Research. Meanwhile, 4,392 store openings have been announced year to date, compared to 3,258 openings announced in 2018, a 34.8 percent increase.

Mark Mathews, the National Retail Federation’s vice president of research development and industry analysis, cautioned against judging the economic climate based on data that solely includes announced closings and openings.

“If you look at Census data, which captures stores across the U.S., not just a sample of public companies that are reporting this information, in the second quarter of 2019 there were over 3,600 more stores in the U.S. than there was in quarter two 2018,” Mathews said. “In fact, the quarter two 2019 figure for the number of establishments in the U.S. is the highest Q2 number since the Great Recession.”

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Mathew said rather than relying on the Coresight data, more stock should be placed in data analysis by IHL Group, which performs in-depth looks at store closures and openings.

“Their data shows that for every business closing a store, there are five businesses that are actually opening stores,” he said. “One of the interesting things that comes out of their data and analysis is 73 percent of store closings are from just 16 companies.”

Just like any industry, there will be winner and losers and the retail industry is no exception, Mathews said.

“Those companies that are struggling in retail, they are shedding stores, and shedding store fast,” he said. “If you announce bankruptcy, you are going to announce the closure of all your stores, probably and that whole number will go into the Coresight report. It’s definitely an imperfect look at what’s happening in retail across the board.”

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Companies struggling in retail in 2019 included Payless, Gymboree, Charlotte Russe and Shopko, which all filed for bankruptcy and announced they would close a combined 3,720 stores, according to Coresight.

The majority of those came as a result of the 2,100 stores closed by Payless, which in February filed for its second bankruptcy.

Discount chain Fred’s filed for bankruptcy in September and closed 564 stores. Forever 21 also filed for bankruptcy that month and said it will close up to 178 stores. That company’s closures were not included in Coresight’s report as they are not yet finalized.

Other retailers, such as Ann Taylor parent Ascena Retail, Family Dollar, GNC, JC Penney, Signet Jewelers, Victoria’s Secret and Walgreens cut back on the amount of stores in an effort to save money and give support to higher-performing stores.

Family Dollar shuttered 359 locations this year, while Signet, the parent company of Jared, Kay and Zales, announced 159 closures.

Discount retailers are helping making up for stores that are shutting down locations. During the first three quarters of the year, Dollar General has opened a total of 769 stores, remodeled 928 and relocated 75 stores. Dollar General had previously announced plans to open 975 new stores.

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Five Below completed plans to open 150 new stores in fiscal year 2019, giving it 894 stores across 36 states in the United States as of Nov. 2.

A 2020 U.S. Real Estate Market Outlook published by American commercial real estate services and investment firm CBRE supports the IHL data that shows more retail stores are opening than closing.

“Thousands of new stores will open nationwide in 2020, including by once online-only retailers that recognize the brand value of a physical store, and by food & beverage concepts, grocers and franchisers,” the study says. “Pop-ups to test brand collaborations, launch new products or test new markets will proliferate in in urban markets and dominant malls.”

CBRE said some parts of the retail business could bounce back next year because malls are benefiting from the “refreshing influence” of Generation Z-ers, who were born between 1997 and 2010.

“Gen Z is a cohort with tremendous spending power positively impacting brick-and-mortar retail, especially shopping malls,” CBRE said. “This generation spends $143 billion per year and influences an additional $460.5 billion in spending by others, according to eMarketer. They are digital natives who consume collaboratively using all digital platforms to research, cost-compare and connect.”


BY THE NUMBERS

9,302: Number of store closures announced nationally in 2019

5,844: Number of store closures announced nationally in 2018.

3,720: Number of store closings announced in 2019 just from retailers Payless, Gymboree, Charlotte Russe and Shopko