- The 2010s have been a devastating decade for retail as stores and malls have continued to close at record high rates across the US.
- More than 9,300 stores are expected to close in 2019 alone, following thousands of closings in 2017 and 2018.
- We took a look at some of the biggest winners and losers in retail during the past decade.
- Sign up for Business Insider’s retail newsletter, The Drive-Thru, to get more stories like this in your inbox.
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The 2010s will be remembered as one of the more taxing decades for the retail sector, as malls and stores across the US continued to close at record levels.
In 2019 alone, over 9,000 stores are expected to close as the retail landscape continues to change.
With this in mind, we decided to look at some of the biggest winners and losers in retail during the most recent decade.
The list is by no means exhaustive, but it includes some of the biggest catastrophes and success stories that will be remembered.
The past decade has been full of dramatic twists and turns for Sears.
In the past 10 years, it has closed over 3,000 stores and laid off thousands of workers as sales tumbled from $US43 billion at the beginning of the decade to less than $US17 billion by 2017. By 2018, the company reached a breaking point and was forced to file for bankruptcy, narrowly avoiding liquidation as it was bailed out by former CEO Edward Lampert.
The company is now bracing itself for another wave of store closings, which will leave it with just 182 stores by February.
Blockbuster’s woes may have predated the 2010s, but it was during this decade that America’s favourite video rental chain actually disappeared.
Today, there’s just one Blockbuster store left in the world, and it’s located in Bend, Oregon. The last remaining stores, which were located in Alaska and Australia, closed their doors earlier this year.
Find out what it’s like to visit the store, here.
At its peak in 2001, Radio Shack had more than 7,300 locations across the US and boasted of having a store within three miles of 95% of American consumers.
In 2017, the company filed for bankruptcy for the second time in two years and closed more than a thousand of its stores.
Today, Radio Shack products are sold by authorised dealers and through shop-in-shops at certain Hobby Lobby locations.
It’s been a tumultuous decade for America’s lingerie sweetheart. After strong growth throughout the 1990s and early to mid-2000s, sales slowed in the second half of this decade as the brand was increasingly accused of losing relevance and failing to adapt to the times.
Intense pressure from analysts and shareholders to update its “tone-deaf” image has started to have an impact on the brand, however.
This year has seen some major changes. Ed Razek, one of its most prominent executives, who was responsible for organising its annual fashion show and who came under intense scrutiny after making controversial comments about plus-size and transgender models, stepped down in the summer after nearly three decades at the company.
Claire’s is remembered by many as the “it” teen retailer of the ’90s. Unfortunately, its success didn’t continue throughout the 2000s.
The company filed for bankruptcy in March 2018 and announced a restructuring plan to handle its $US2 billion debt load. At the time, it cited a drop in traffic to malls as one of the main reasons for its demise, given that the majority of its stores are located in malls.
The company has since emerged from bankruptcy, but it remains to be seen whether it will have a place in the hearts of teen shoppers of the future.
Forever 21 filed for bankruptcy in September and announced it would be closing hundreds of stores globally, ceasing operations entirely in 40 countries.
Analysts cited several reasons for its demise, including overexpansion at a time when sales were shifting online and an inability to keep up with its competitors in the fast-fashion space.
But the company has stressed that its recent bankruptcy doesn’t mean it is going out of business.
“Filing for bankruptcy protection is a deliberate and decisive step to put us on a successful track for the future,” it wrote in a letter to customers in September.
Before the turn of this decade, American Apparel was booming, opening stores, and considered to be the largest clothing manufacturer in the US.
The brand had been embroiled in controversy for several years. Its founder, Dov Charney, was pushed out of the business by his own board in 2015 after he was accused of misusing company funds and failing to stop an employee from publishing a blog that defamed former employees. Charney had also come under scrutiny in the past after several employees lodged sexual harassment allegations against him.
Gildan is now working to make over the brand’s former reputation.
Mattress Firm became the subject of a 2018 viral thread in which a Redditor suggested that the mattress company was running a money-laundering operation because it had so many stores in the US. According to data startup Thinknum, 42.6% of Mattress Firm stores at that time were located within a one-mile radius of each other.
Not long after, the company announced it would be filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and closing hundreds of its stores in the US.
Mattress Firm alleged in a lawsuit against two former in-house real-estate executives, an external broker, and a group of developers that its giant store base was a result of an aggressive expansion plan spurred on by these parties. It accused these individuals of conspiring to make Mattress Firm aggressively expand, open stores in expensive locations, and sign leases above market rates.
Mattress Firm claims in a lawsuit that its former executives accepted private-jet trips, expensive watches, and luxurious hotel stays from brokers in exchange for opening so many new stores that it spurred conspiracy theories
Once America’s iconic clothing brand, Gap has taken a dramatic fall from grace this decade. Analysts have accused the brand of failing to create a compelling assortment of apparel, thus encouraging customers to shop elsewhere and contributing to an ongoing decline in sales.
Because of this, discounts have become a mainstay at the store, and it’s increasingly becoming unusual to pay full price for anything there.
While JCPenney has suffered from industry-wide issues that have impacted the department store sector – falling traffic to malls and a customer that increasingly prefers to shop online, to name a few – its frequent turnover of CEOs in recent years has also contributed to its demise.
These CEOs have come in with different ideas and strategies to change the company, which have, in some cases, resulted in alienating its core customer.
Sales have continued to decline over the past decade, and it has a mounting debt load to contend with. Analysts are now hoping that new CEO Jill Soltau will be able to execute a turnaround.
Toys R Us
Analysts have blamed its demise on a $US6.6 billion leveraged buyout in 2005 by private equity investors, which left the company saddled with debt and meant it was unable to spend the money it needed to improve the store experience and beef up against competitors.
The brand was resurrected by Tru Kids Inc. earlier this year, which said that it plans to open at least 10 stores by the end of 2020.
Abandoned malls have become a symbol of the past decade as the so-called “retail apocalypse” sweeps across the US.
These retail complexes have been clobbered by store closures as anchor stores such as Macy’s and Sears, which take up large retail spaces and drive foot traffic, have shuttered locations and left malls with enormous gaps to fill.
Credit Suisse analysts are now expecting upwards of 25% of US malls to shutter between 2017 and 2022.
Borders was one of the first retail catastrophes of the past decade.
The US bookstore chain was founded in 1971 and became one of the biggest players in books by the 1990s. But a series of bad decisions – expanding its store base when sales were shifting online, for example – led to dwindling sales and its eventual bankruptcy and liquidation in 2011.
Alfred Angelo isn’t only the American bridalwear chain to have encountered issues this decade, but its almost instant collapse made headlines after it left hundreds of brides stranded without dresses.
The company had been in business for over 80 years before it filed for bankruptcy and abruptly closed all of its stores in 2018.
While it had a turbulent start to the year – filing for bankruptcy in February, liquidating one month later and closing all of its 500 stores – Charlotte Russe had a mini-comeback several months later. Its new owners announced that it would be relaunching online and reopening 100 stores; these have since opened.
WINNERS: TJ Maxx
TJ Maxx is known to be one of the few retailers to have defied the retail apocalypse.
The off-price chain has reported several years of consecutive sales growth and continues to woo shoppers with its low-cost deals on designer clothing and homeware.
Amazon is perhaps retail’s biggest winner of the decade. The online giant has grown at a breakneck speed in the past 10 years, which analysts say has come at the expense of other traditional brick-and-mortar retailers that have seen sales slow as customers increasingly favour the convenience of shopping online with Amazon.
It has strengthened its retail offering considerably in these 10 years, adding new services to its Prime membership, acquiring the Whole Foods chain and doubling down on grocery, and launching its cashierless stores, known as Amazon Go.
In the past decade, Walmart has held on to its position as the world’s largest retailer and become a more formidable force in the e-commerce world as it ramps up against Amazon.
It’s been on an e-commerce shopping spree since 2010, buying up trendy online brands such as Bonobos, Jet.com, and Modcloth (which it later sold) to grow its online empire.
It’s also made considerable improvements to the consumer shopping experience, rolling out new, speedy delivery services and a click-and-collect option for those who do want to visit the store but want a more convenient way to shop.
Target has flourished in the second half of the decade under the leadership of current CEO Brian Cornell.
Cornell first announced a $US7 billion spending plan in 2017 to remodel 600 Target stores and open new small-format stores in urban areas. Analysts say this investment is paying off as the new shopping experience helps to drive more sales.
Cornell has also doubled down on his mission to expand the company’s private-label collections and its collaborations with brands and designers. These collections give customers a reason to visit the store and set it apart from competitors.
It hasn’t all been smooth sailing, however. In September, Business Insider’s Shoshy Ciment reported on Target’s new “modernisation” plan that has involved cutting some backroom and overnight shifts, leaving some stock rooms in disarray.
Dollar General has been on a path to dominate rural America over the past decade, growing at a pace that has been described as largely “unthinkable” in retail as it opens hundreds of stores each year.
Its strategy was to go where Walmart wasn’t, and it seems to be paying off. Customers are flocking to the discount chain to snap up deals, enabling it to hit a 29-year sales streak in 2018.
Costco is considered to be one of the few retailers to successfully stave off the threat of Amazon, despite lagging behind from an e-commerce perspective, and it has continued to grow over the past decade.
It keeps members loyal with its consistent deals on everything from groceries to gas and vacations. Its low-cost private-label collection, Kirkland, has become one of its most valuable offerings and a traffic driver in its own right; Kirkland now accounts for roughly 25% of Costco’s total sales.
Zara has continued to reign supreme in the fast-fashion world despite the rise of new online players such as Boohoo and Fashion Nova, which are undercutting Zara’s once-speedy turnaround times.
Thanks to its speedy design process and slick supply chain, Zara is able to stay ahead of trends and continue to appeal to the fashion-conscious shopper.
Experts say that its strategy of rolling out new items often and in limited batches to give the impression of scarcity encourages the shopper to buy.
Over the past few years, Wegmans has repeatedly been ranked at the top of America’s favourite grocery store lists, a mighty achievement for a regional chain that has around 100 stores along the East Coast.
This is thanks to its most loyal fans, the so-called Wegmanites, who will even fly in from different states to attend its new store openings.
In six short years, 34-year-old Emily Weiss has built a billion-dollar beauty brand.
Weiss was a former Vogue “super-intern,” who appeared on TV series “The Hills” before becoming a full-time fashion assistant at Vogue and setting up her own beauty blog on the side, where she interviewed celebrities about their own beauty routines.
Called “Into The Gloss,” the blog laid the foundation for her brand, which created products based on reader feedback.
While Glossier doesn’t publicly release sales numbers, a spokesperson recently told Business Insider that it surpassed $US100 million in annual revenue in 2018, doubling its 2017 numbers, and acquired a million new customers that year.
It was valued at $US1.2 billion in March after raising $US100 million in funding.
The 2010s have been a strong decade for Ross Stores, which has opened more than 500 stores and reported strong sales growth.
The off-price model generally benefits in harder economic times, when customers are more price-conscious. But even as the economy has improved, its growth has shown no sign of slowing down, indicating that shoppers are still hooked on deals and discounts.
From a sales perspective, it’s been a strong decade for Lululemon. The brand that arguably started the athleisure craze has continued to flourish and gain new customers even as the market becomes increasingly saturated with options.
But the past 10 years haven’t been without their challenges, and the company has battled through a string of controversies caused by its former leaders.
Most recently, former CEO Laurent Potlevin abruptly stepped down from the company over alleged poor conduct. ARacked investigation shortly after that, based on interviews with former and current employees, shed light on what employees described as a “toxic” work environment created by Potdevin.
Casper is part of a new generation of direct-to-consumer, “digitally native” brands that have emerged during the past decade and are attempting to turn traditional retail on its head by offering more convenient ways to shop.
Casper has done for mattresses what Warby Parker did for glasses – it has attempted to take away the stress of shopping for mattresses by enabling customers to have a premium mattress delivered directly to their door.
The company is now valued at $US1.1 billion after raising $US100 million in a recent round of funding and added stores to its offering.
Warby Parker has been credited with turning the eyewear industry on its head by dramatically lowering the cost of stylish frames.
What started as an online-only business, where shoppers would find the frames best suited to them by completing a quiz, has now transitioned into a 100-plus store enterprise.
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