5 Big Retailers That Are Shrinking in the U.S.

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Struggling retailer Gap (GPS) isn't the only one slowly receding from malls across the country.

On June 15, Gap joined a sizable list of big-name retailers such as Sears (SHLD) and Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF) to shutter stores en masse to combat pressured profits. Gap said it will close about 175 Gap brand stores in North America over the next few years, with about 140 closures occurring this fiscal year.

"These are stores that largely operate at or above our minimum brand standards," said Gap CEO Art Peck on a call with analysts explaining the headline-grabbing maneuver. Peck went on to say the stores earmarked for closing didn't warrant an investment in a remodel due to population shifts around the mall and greater online shopping.

After its latest store closing campaign, it will operate 800 Gap stores in the U.S., way down from the chain's peak in the early 2000s, when it had over 1,400 stores in the U.S.

TheStreet takes a look at five other major retailers that are significantly shrinking their store empires. The stores are ranked from the smallest decline from the retailer's peak to the largest.

5. J.C. Penney

Stores closed in 2014: 33

Stores targeted to close in 2015: 40

Peak number of stores in operation: 1,108 (2009)

Current store count: 1,027

 

According to a J.C. Penney spokesman, most of its store closures for 2015 occurred in April. After the latest round, J.C. Penney may be done vacating malls as most of the remaining stores are profitable.

"I think there is in some cases a misperception because we hear a lot that we should consider closing more stores, especially stores in a rural areas -- the misperception being those stores are the least profitable when in most cases those stores are the most profitable.," said J.C. Penney's CEO-Designee Marvin Ellison at a June 10 investment bank presentation.

 

4. Abercrombie & Fitch

Stores closed in 2014: 50

Stores targeted to close in 2015: 60

Peak number of stores in operation: 1,097 (2008)

Current store count: 956

Abercrombie & Fitch may be poised to announce a shocking number of fresh store closures over the next few years.

"We have very significant flexibility domestically over the next couple of years, with a very high proportion of our U.S. leases up for renewal between now and the end of fiscal 2017," said Abercrombie & Fitch chief operating officer Jonathan E. Ramsden on the company's May 28 earnings call.  The decision on whether to close more stores could fall to Ramsden, who is rumored to be in the running to land the CEO position following the departure of long-time CEO Mike Jeffries late last year.

3. Aeropostale

Stores closed in 2014: 122

Stores targeted to close in 2015: 50 to 75

Peak number of stores in operation: 1,100 (2013)

Current store count: 849

 

Aeropostale has perhaps been hurt the most among the crop of teen apparel retailers doing battle with fast fashion retailers. The company has been forced to reduce prices on basic T-shirts and jeans to compete, while improving its styles, which is no easy task. On the bright side, Aeropostale does intend to open one new outlet store in 2015. 

2. Pacific Sunwear

Stores closed in 2014: 18

Stores targeted to close in 2015: 10 to 20

Peak number of stores in operation: 1,199 (2006)

Current store count: 605

 

The fall from grace for the surfwear and skate themed retailer has been dramatic, as teens have shifted to the shopping racks of fast-fashion retailers. Pacific Sunwear still plans to open 10 new stores this year, however.

1. Sears

Stores closed in 2014: 231

Stores targeted to close in 2015: Unknown

Peak number of stores in operation: 4,038 (2010)

Current store count: 1,716

 

With customers being lost to Wal-Mart (WMT), Target (TGT), Home Depot, (HD) and Lowe's (LOW), and cash levels burning up, Sears has had no choice but to dramatically shrink its U.S. store footprint of Kmart and Sears stores. To access new sources of cash, the company recently formed a real estate investment trust (REIT) and has leased out space at several prominent malls to overseas fashion retailer Primark.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.

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