Kroger reported strong sales throughout 2020, including a 14.6% rise in sales in the second quarter. Despite this, the company closed 10 stores in 2021. The first were a Food 4 Less and a Ralphs in Long Beach, California, and two QFC stores in Seattle, which many have put down to new district laws on hazard pay (also known as hero pay), where grocery workers must be paid extra to compensate for working on the frontline during the pandemic. When Kroger closed two Ralphs and one Food 4 Less in LA, the company claimed it was because they were "underperforming" rather than due to hazard pay. Not everyone was convinced, however, and two council members started a motion to investigate exactly why they closed in April last year. Two stores in Illinois and three in Arkansas were also shuttered due to poor performance.
Department store chain Century 21 revealed in September 2020 that it would be shutting all 13 of its stores on the East Coast. The company reported that it was filing for bankruptcy after its insurance provider declined to pay a $175 million claim to cover interruption to business triggered by the coronavirus outbreak. It wasn't just Century 21 that missed out on insurance cash, as very few business policies accounted for disruption in the event of a pandemic. Last February, Century 21 announced plans to relaunch its brand later in 2021 because of demand from shoppers, but the company heralded its comeback by opening its first store in South Korea rather than in the US, according to Fox Business.
Luxury department chain Nordstrom had only just secured $600 million in real estate investments to help it through the COVID-19 pandemic when it announced in May 2020 that it would be axing 16 of its least profitable stores. All of the company’s 116 stores had to close when lockdown measures came into place, and those that are reopening will be subject to restructuring action as Nordstrom looks to slim down its operating costs by $150 million. It's perhaps not surprising after Nordstrom reported that 54% of its revenue in 2020 came from internet sales.
In February 2021, Fry’s Electronics suddenly closed all 31 of its stores across nine states. A statement published online said that changing consumer habits and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic had prompted the decision to shutter the family business, which was formed by the Fry brothers in 1985. Many of its stores were themed, including its Burbank, California location (pictured), where a UFO seemed to be crashing through the store.
Bath & Body Works, which is owned by L Brands, announced in May 2020 that 50 of its US-based stores, as well as one in Canada, would be closing before the end of the year. After lockdown forced most outlets to shut in the first quarter of the year, Bath & Body Works sales were down 37% compared to the same period in 2019. It isn’t all bad news for the retailer though, as the company planned to open an additional 50 Bath & Body Works locations, following the 26 that were due to open during 2020. This leaves almost 1,800 stores across the US and Canada, the most recent of which opened its doors in December 2021 at Fort Hood, Texas.
The electronics retailer has been quietly closing stores over the past few years, shutting 20 premises in both 2019 and 2020. In early 2021, it announced plans "to close a higher number this year". Although the total number of its store closures isn't readily available, it's likely that at least 60 Best Buy stores have closed so far. In November 2021, however, the company revealed that it was opening new 'experiential' outlet stores in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Amazon has announced that it will start closing its 66 non-food and non-convenience stores across the US from this April. This will include all of the company's bookstores, as well as its 4-Star and Pop-up shops. The closures follow Amazon's weakest quarter for over 20 years; its sales growth rate this quarter was its slowest since 2001, according to CNBC, while its stock has slumped by 8%. It will apparently focus on launching its Style clothing stores as well as boosting its line of grocery stores.
Microsoft has enjoyed a huge boost in profits thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, as millions of people became dependent on its software for their home working and virtual school set-ups. That hasn’t stopped the tech behemoth from trimming down its in-person retail offerings though, and the company announced in June 2020 that all of its stores, including 70 across the US, would be closing on a permanent basis. All sales moved online, while Microsoft Experience Centers, where customers can test products, remain in former stores in London, New York, Sydney, and the company’s Redmond campus in Washington.
Department store Sears was already on a path of store closures when COVID-19 hit. Sears Holdings filed for bankruptcy in 2018, after which it was bought by Transformco, so it's unsurprising that store numbers continue to fall in the current economic climate. In 2020, 72 Sears stores closed their doors for the last time, followed by a further 16 locations earlier last year. According to USA Today, a further seven shut down in mid-November 2021, meaning Sears is left with just 19 department stores in the US. Quite the steep decline from the 489 stores it had at the beginning of 2019. Transformco says it is expanding the number of smaller Hometown and Home & Life stores.
Disney has been on a mission to close most of its North American stores for some time. A total of 119 stores have closed over the past couple of years, leaving only 23 left across the US. However, more than 100 new small Disney Stores opened in Target stores around the country in 2021, part of a growing trend of smaller concession-style stores popping up in big retail outlets.
Even the oldest clothing store in the United States has been rattled by the COVID-19 outbreak. Brooks Brothers was saved by brand management firm Authentic Brands and American shopping mall owner Simon Property, who acquired the brand in a $325 million deal in August 2021. The new owners won’t be saving all the Brooks Brothers stores though. The clothing retailer had already decided to shut 51 stores in July 2020, and the new owners have since said that only 125 of the remaining 200 US-based stores will remain open.
Chocolate sales soared while people were stuck at home, but the lack of footfall in Godiva’s in-person stores has caused the chocolatier to announce the closure of all 128 of its retail and café locations across North America. The Belgian chocolate manufacturer’s wares will still be available to US-based customers online and via its partner grocery stores, and Godiva’s brick-and-mortar stores across Europe, the Middle East and Greater China will stay in operation.
Before the coronavirus outbreak, Macy’s had already committed to shutting 125 of its locations over the coming three years in an announcement made in February 2020. Along with the closures, the department store giant said that 2,000 jobs would be cut as it looked to boost profits. In 2020, 28 Macy’s stores and one Bloomingdale’s location closed their doors for the final time.
A list of 37 locations set to close in 2021 was then published by the retailer last January, which would affect stores in 19 states. Some of those outlets have been turned into fulfilment centers to keep up with the uptick in online sales, which grew by 53% year-on-year in the second quarter and then at a slower rate of 27% in the third quarter of 2020. At the start of this year, Macy's announced that it will be closing a further six stores throughout Alabama, California, Colorado, Missouri, and Texas.
Like most jewelers, Signet, which owns international brands including Kay Jewelers, Zales, Jared and H. Samuel, enjoyed a boom in sales for Valentine’s Day 2020. But the coronavirus pandemic quickly caused a slump when stores were made to close their doors in March that year. In June 2020, Signet announced that at least 150 of its North American stores would remain shut, as well as 80 outlets in the UK, as it looked to ditch mall stores and shift its focus to the bustling e-commerce market.
After almost 120 years of business, department store JCPenney announced in June 2020 that it would be filing for bankruptcy, with plans to shut 149 of its stores over the summer period alone and 242 in total, which is 29% of its overall number of stores. The coronavirus pandemic was the final straw for the company, which had long been wrestling against the transition to online shopping and competition from retail behemoths such as Walmart and Target. Brookfield Property Partners and Simon Property Group saved the business from liquidation in an $800 million acquisition deal in December. By the end of 2021 it had closed approximately 175 stores.
Carter’s revealed in October 2020 that it would be permanently closing around a quarter of its stores, some 200 locations, as it chose not to renew leases on its less profitable sites. The children’s apparel retailer is looking to improve the digital side of its business such as buying online and curbside pick-up, but also hasn’t given up on the in-person shopping experience. Carter’s CEO Michael Casey pointed out that the chaos caused by coronavirus has forged a buyer’s market, saying that the company would be keeping an eye out for opportune investments for future stores, reported TotalRetail.
Gap, which also owns alternative clothing brand Banana Republic, announced in August 2020 that it would be closing more than 225 stores that year, with further closures unveiled in 2021. The number of Gap stores across the US was already in decline and brutal sales figures as a result of COVID-19 restrictions have only worsened the situation. The company did see a 95% boost in online sales, which served to offset some of the damage caused by empty stores. In February last year, Gap announced that it would be spending $140 million on building a warehouse in Texas – capable of processing one million packages each day – to keep up with the extra demand.
In July last year, home goods retailer Bed Bath & Beyond announced plans to shut 200 of its locations in the coming two years, which is around 21% of its stores. Liquidating the stores is projected to generate an annual cost saving of between $250 million and $350 million, which the company will invest in remodeling its remaining stores and driving up online profits. The home goods company added another 37 stores to its closure list at the start of this year. The premises, which are located across 19 states, closed their doors for the last time in February.
Last January, American Eagle Outfitters set out plans to improve its profitability, including doubling its Aerie brand revenue to $2 billion by 2023 and boosting sales at its American Eagle stores. To hit its targets, the company will close between 200 and 250 of its outlets, most of which are mall-based, while growing its Aerie brand from 350 stores to between 500 and 600 by 2023. Strong digital sales mean that American Eagle Outfitters is faring better than most during the pandemic.
It’s not just clothing and homeware retailers that have felt the sting of the economic turndown. The world’s largest telecommunications company in terms of revenue, AT&T, also announced that it would be closing 250 stores and shedding 3,400 jobs in the process. The store closures were already in the pipeline pre-pandemic, but the events of 2020 accelerated the action. AT&T emphasized that most store employees would be offered alternative work within the company, and those who weren’t would receive severance incentives of up to almost $100,000 and six months of healthcare coverage.
At the start of 2021, women’s clothing and accessories brand Francesca’s saw in the new year with a wave of 140 store closures. Just a month later, another 97 of its 700 locations were set to follow the same fate when the company filed for bankruptcy, and court documents have since suggested that around 275 stores will close in total. This comes as another blow to mall owners, who have watched their sites quickly hollow out as a result of the pandemic.
Discount department store Stein Mart has suffered during the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, and in August 2021 it announced that it would be closing all 279 of its stores across 30 US states. After 112 years in business, the company hosted going-out-of-business sales across the country and started marketing leases for its stores, distribution centers and offices in mid-September last year.
Lingerie and clothing giant Victoria’s Secret announced in May 2020 that it would be closing 250 sites, a quarter of its stores across the US and Canada. By the end of 2020 it had shut 248 stores. Parent company L Brands warned that this could just be the start of closures in the coming years, and it wasn’t long before another announcement disclosed plans to close 30 to 50 more stores in the US and Canada. Now the future of 1,050 North America-based Victoria's Secret stores has been left in the balance as employees and customers wait to see which locations will close next.
Despite being America’s largest speciality childrenswear store, The Children’s Place announced in November 2020 that 300 of its stores would be closed by September 2021. Profitability has taken a big hit over the last two years, with sales decreasing by 19% in the three-month period ending in October 2020 as the company missed out on its usual back-to-school boom. However, The Children’s Place has seen its digital customer base double as a result of the pandemic.
Unfortunately like Sears, which is also owned by Transformco, Kmart is seeing its stores quietly disappear, even though the discount store stayed open throughout periods of lockdown thanks to its ‘essential’ status. The discount retailer didn’t benefit from the pandemic boom enjoyed by other stores such as Walmart though, and reports circulated of eerily empty shelves as stores prepared to close. Kmart was a popular retailer in all 50 states with around 360 stores in 2019, but three years later only three will remain once it shuts its Avenel, New Jersey store later this year.
Women's clothing retail group Christopher & Banks filed for bankruptcy in January 2021 and then began liquidating all of its 449 stores, including 315 under the Missy, Petite, Women brand. The pandemic was the final blow for the embattled group. It successfully sold its online assets.
With working at home commonplace during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s unsurprising that Americans haven’t been buying many suits, which has left Tailored Brands – the company behind Men’s Wearhouse and Jos. A. Bank – struggling. In July 2021, the company announced that it would be closing up to 500 stores and cutting its corporate workforce by 20% in money-saving restructuring efforts. Tailored Brands then filed for bankruptcy last August, but had exited again by the end of November after creating a plan to shed $686 million in debt and to turn its ownership over to its lenders and creditors.
The rise of streaming platforms such as Netflix and Disney+ has all but eradicated the need for physical movie rental stores and, after 42 years in business, it’s unsurprising that 2021 was the year that Family Video closed its doors for good. Family Video had long outlasted competitors such as Blockbuster, Movie Gallery and Hollywood Video, and was last reported as having an empire of 500 video stores at the start of 2020. But COVID-19 restrictions and a lack of new movie releases meant that the chain was soon in trouble and it was forced to start closing stores. By the end of 2020, just 250 stores remained, and Family Video announced plans to close all of its locations in January 2021. Pictured is a member of staff clearing the shelves at Family Video's last location in West Des Moines, central Iowa.
The troubled games retailer became a stock market and media sensation early in 2021, as ordinary investors started buying up stock in an orchestrated move to hit hedge funds that were betting on the chain's continued demise. While GameStop enjoyed extraordinary growth in its share price, it still faces a very uncertain future and will have closed over 550 US stores in the last two years as it switches focus to online.
Department store company Stage Stores focused on off-price apparel in its various outlets across rural America, which included Goody’s, Bealls and Palais Royal. But the entire chain was put up for sale in May 2020 as the retailer was forced to file for bankruptcy, and all 738 of its stores went into liquidation. The Stage Stores brands and property were then acquired by Bealls Inc – a company separate to the Bealls brand operated by Stage Stores – in a $7 million bankruptcy deal in October 2021.
Last year, drugstore chain CVS announced that it will be closing around 300 stores a year for the next three years, bringing its total number of closures to 900. The move will reduce CVS stores throughout America by about 10%. According to Neil Saunders, managing director at GlobalData: "Too many [CVS] stores are stuck in the past with bad lighting, depressing interiors, messy merchandising and a weak assortment of products." It's thought the closures will enable the chain to invest in its remaining stores while boosting its "rapidly expanding digital presence."
In February 2020, Pier 1 Imports filed for bankruptcy and announced the closure of 450 of its stores. The company had hoped to emerge from bankruptcy as a viable business, but those plans were scuppered when COVID-19 struck and decimated the retail market. Just three months later, the company announced that it would be shutting all remaining outlets too, bringing its total number of store closures to 942.
In 2018, health and wellness store GNC Holdings announced that it would close up to 900 of its stores in the next three years as leases in the US and Canada expired, and so its stores were already disappearing from malls when the pandemic hit. In June 2020, the company filed for bankruptcy and announced that up to 1,200 stores would be closing before the end of the year as COVID-19 obliterated its refinancing attempts. Chinese company Harbin Pharmaceutical Group Holding acquired GNC for $770 million that September, but the move is unlikely to reverse closures as the company hopes to focus on GNC’s online presence, rather than reviving brick-and-mortar stores.