- The current period of consolidation colloquially known as the "retail apocalypse" may last for another 18 to 24 months, according to an emailed analyst note from investment bank B. Riley FBR.
- According to Scott Carpenter, who heads the retail solutions unit at B. Riley's liquidation arm, Great American, "most retailers" are over-stored. That means another 30% of current retail space "would cease to exist in its current form, as consumer buying trends shift increasingly online," Carpenter told B. Riley analysts.
- That includes both liquidating retailers and healthy players looking to rationalize their store fleets. Much of the closures would happen at B- and C-class malls, which have already struggled for years now.
So far this year, retailers have closed more than 7,000 stores, which already surpasses the full-year totals of all past years, according to accounting and consulting firm BDO. As of mid-August, store closures have outpaced openings, according to Coresight Research. And more are on the way. Since Coresight made that count, Avenue Stores opted to liquidate, as did discount and drugstore retailer Fred's and apparel retailer A'gaci.
Retail liquidations, which BDO notes accelerated this year compared to 2018, have contributed to a sizable chunk of those closures. Payless alone closed more than 2,300 stores in bankruptcy this year, the largest retail liquidation ever by store count. The liquidations of Gymboree, Shopko, Charlotte Russe and Ascena's Dressbarn contributed hundreds each, but so did relatively stable retailers like Family Dollar, Gap, Walgreens and H&M.
With shifts to e-commerce driving much of the closures, the B. Riley analysts, led by Susan Anderson, wrote that retailers with a "well-developed e-commerce channel can help mitigate store base disruption." They listed a handful of players they think have "both effectively managed their store fleet and developed a strong e-comm channel." Those retailers include Children's Place, Carter's, American Eagle Outfitters, Foot Locker, Guess and Chico's.
Meanwhile, many retailers are trying to put out financial fires as debt-servicing and lease costs run up against falling sales trends. Those retailers may well be forced to close more stores, possibly in bankruptcy.