Catching Up on Store Closures

Things were quiet for a while on the store closure front. But last week Jones Apparel Group said it would shutter 225 stores. In more positive news, however, C&S Wholesale Grocers won an auction and will buy all 56 Bruno's locations. Bruno's had previously filed for Chapter 11 and it was possible there could have been store closures there. But C&S says it plans to keep all the locations open.

So where does this leave us for the year? I've been trying to do an informal tally here based on media reports of mass closings. You can see my math below. I count 2,802 announced closures and an additional 1,376 locations operated by retailers currently in bankruptcy protection. That more or less matches what ICSC recently reported. In a research note (see below), ICSC says retailers announced 2,284 closures in the first quarter. The projection is for 4,600 for the year--less than the 6,913 that closed in 2008 and close to the 2007 numbers.

For its part, CoStar also puts together an extensive look at closures periodically. In one published last week, CoStar found major U.S. retailers closed nearly 7,000 stores while opening approximately 5,700 new locations in 2008 resulting in a net loss of more than 1,000 stores for the year. CoStar expects similar numbers in 2009. So far, CoStar is seeing 3,968 projected openings in 2009 and 3,591 projected closings. That would be a net gain of 377 stores. (CoStar has an excel spreadsheet you can download of more extensive results.)

In the end, it seems that 2009 is playing out like 2008. There were some thoughts that store closures could double in 2009 compared with what we saw last year. But we're not quite at that pace. Historically, most closures are announced in the first quarter. This is because weak retailers often close shop after poor holiday shopping seasons. So for store closures to double in 2009 we would have had to have seen twice as many announcements as we did. The thing to watch going forward is whether the pace of closings stays slow--as it has been in recent weeks--or whether we hit another patch like we had early in the year where it seemed like we got a new big announcement each day. If the pace of closings accelerates, that would be a very bad sign.

Bankruptcies and Liquidations:

Potential Bankruptcies & Liquidation Impact: 1,362 confirmed closures out of about 2,738 stores

Announced Closings

Total Closings: up to 1,440 U.S. stores

Potential Impact of All Announcements to Date: 2,802 closures out of up to 4,178 potentially affected U.S. stores

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