With the rise of e-commerce, traditional brick-and-mortar retailers in the United States have been struggling for years. Online shopping accounted for just 4.2% of all retail in the United States in 2010 but for over 16% by 2020. By some estimates, one in every four U.S. malls will close by 2025, and half of all department stores within malls could shutter by the end of this year.
While these trends predate the coronavirus pandemic, lockdown measures imposed in much of the country over the past year have intensified them, further exacerbating the struggles of many retailers. According to a report compiled by Coresight Research, a retail advisory firm, over 8,000 brick-and-mortar stores in the United States closed permanently in 2020, and another 10,000 are expected to shut down in 2021.
24/7 Wall St. identified the retailer closing the most stores. Closure counts for the contenders were only for U.S. locations, unless otherwise noted, and included both 2020 and 2021 closures, as well as planned future closures. It is important to note that the finalists for this list are representative of trends in retail as highlighted by major brands, and the list is not exhaustive.
For many companies on the finalist list to find the retailer that closed the most locations, store closures are part of a strategic restructuring plan: closing underperforming stores, reducing costs and focusing on growth areas, like e-commerce.
In some other cases, the companies that were on the finalist list either liquidated all their assets and went out of business, or they likely soon will.
To identify the retailer closing the most stores, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed press releases and media coverage of the 100 largest retailers by global sales revenue. We also included some high-profile retailers that are not among the 100 largest but that recently made news for bankruptcy declarations or mass store closures. We included closures that have taken place in the past year and those that are planned for the coming year.
Retail locations that have been sold to a competing company for rebranding were not included on the list. If the number of closures was largely offset by the opening of new locations, those companies also were excluded.
Ascena Retail Group closed 1,600 stores last year. It is the parent of Justice, Ann Taylor, LOFT, Lane Bryant, Lou & Grey and Catherines. New Jersey-based Ascena Retail filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in late July 2020. The move came after the company had shuttered 600 locations of clothing retailer Justice, which markets to preteen girls. The estimated total of 1,600 location closures includes all locations of Catherines, a plus-size women’s clothing store. The closures were part of a major corporate shift to online retail.