CHICAGO -- The number of store closures announced in the first half of 2019 has already outstripped the number retailers announced in all of 2018.
More than two dozen chains, from Payless ShoeSource to Party City, have said they plan to shutter about 7,100 stores, up from about 5,400 throughout all of 2018, according to commercial real estate information firm CoStar Group.
Many of the locations retailers announced plans to close this year are smaller, easier-to-fill shops than the department stores and big-box chains that closed in prior years, said Drew Myers, senior consultant at CoStar.
And even though retailers announced plans to close more stores during the first half of this year, CoStar estimates that they left less vacant retail space than they did during the first half of 2018 -- an estimated 72 million square feet this year versus 110 million last year.
That matters because smaller stores are usually easier to replace. There are a lot more companies interested in moving into boutiques than multistory department stores, Myers said.
Another relative bright spot: Other than a handful of chains like Payless, Gymboree and Dressbarn, many of the retailers closing stores this year are only shuttering a fraction of their stores, said Ryan Mulcunry, executive vice president with Great American Group, a company that helps retailers liquidate closing stores.
In prior years, retailers announcing widespread store closures tended to be those that "didn't have a reason to exist," Mulcunry said.
Those companies are gone, and many of the retailers closing stores now are trying to adapt and strengthen the stores that remain, he said.
Some are also offsetting at least some closures with new openings. CoStar estimates retailers have announced new stores totaling 38 million square feet in the first half of 2019, compared with 43 million throughout 2018.
"It's not Armageddon or the apocalypse," Mulcunry said.