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20 Facts About The Great U.S. Retail Apocalypse That Will Blow Your Mind

Abandoned Mall - Photo by Justin CozartIf the U.S. economy is getting better, then why are major retail chains closing thousands of stores?  If we truly are in an "economic recovery", then why do sales figures continue to go down for large retailers all over the country?  Without a doubt, the rise of Internet retailing giants such as have had a huge impact.  Today, there are millions of Americans that actually prefer to shop online.  Personally, when I published my novel I made it solely available on Amazon.  But Internet shopping alone does not account for the great retail apocalypse that we are witnessing.  In fact, some retail experts estimate that the Internet has accounted for only about 20 percent of the decline that we are seeing.  Most of the rest of it can be accounted for by the slow, steady death of the middle class U.S. consumer.  Median household income has declined for five years in a row, but all of our bills just keep going up.  That means that the amount of disposable income that average Americans have continues to shrink, and that is really bad news for retailers.

And sadly, this is just the beginning.  Retail experts are projecting that the pace of store closings will actually accelerate over the course of the next decade.

So as you read this list below, please take note that things will soon get even worse.

The following are 20 facts about the great U.S. retail apocalypse that will blow your mind...

#1 As you read this article, approximately a billion square feet of retail space is sitting vacant in the United States.

#2 Last week, Radio Shack announced that it was going to close more than a thousand stores.

#3 Last week, Staples announced that it was going to close 225 stores.

#4 Same-store sales at Office Depot have declined for 13 quarters in a row.

#5 J.C. Penney has been dying for years, and it recently announced plans to close 33 more stores.

#6 J.C. Penney lost 586 million dollars during the second quarter of 2013 alone.

#7 Sears has closed about 300 stores since 2010, and CNN is reporting that Sears is "expected to shutter another 500 Sears and Kmart locations soon".

#8 Overall, sales numbers have declined at Sears for 27 quarters in a row.

#9 Target has announced that it is going to eliminate 475 jobs and not fill 700 positions that are currently empty.

#10 It is being projected that Aéropostale will close about 175 stores over the next couple of years.

#11 Macy's has announced that it is going to be closing five stores and eliminating 2,500 jobs.

#12 The Children’s Place has announced that it will be closing down 125 of its "weakest" stores by 2016.

#13 Best Buy recently shut down about 50 stores up in Canada.

#14 Video rental giant Blockbuster has completely shut down all of their stores.

#15 It is being projected that sales at U.S. supermarkets will decline by 1.7 percent this year even as the overall population continues to grow.

#16 McDonald's has reported that sales at established U.S. locations were down 3.3 percent in January.

#17 A home appliance chain known as "American TV" in the Midwest is going to be shutting down all 11 stores.

#18 Even Wal-Mart is struggling right now.  Just check out what one very prominent Wal-Mart executive recently admitted...

David Cheesewright, CEO of Walmart International was speaking at the same presentation, and he pointed out that Walmart would try to protect its market share in the US – where the company had just issued an earnings warning. But most of the growth would have to come from its units outside the US. I mean, via these share buybacks?

Alas, outside the US too, economies were limping along at best, and consumers were struggling and the operating environment was tough. "We're seeing economies under stress pretty much everywhere we operate," Cheesewright admitted.

#19 In a recent CNBC article entitled "Time to close Wal-Mart stores? Analysts think so", it was recommended that Wal-Mart should close approximately 100 "underperforming" supercenters in rural locations across America.

#20 Retail consultant Howard Davidowitz is projecting that up to half of all shopping malls in America may shut down within the next 15 to 20 years...

Within 15 to 20 years, retail consultant Howard Davidowitz expects as many as half of America's shopping malls to fail. He predicts that only upscale shopping centers with anchors like Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus will survive.

So is there any hope that things will turn around?

Well, if the U.S. economy started producing large numbers of good paying middle class jobs there would definitely be cause for optimism.

Unfortunately, that is just not happening.

On Friday, we were told that the U.S. economy added 175,000 jobs during the month of February.

That sounds pretty good until you realize that it takes almost that many jobs each month just to keep up with population growth.

And according to CNS News, the number of unemployed Americans actually grew faster than the number of employed Americans in February...

The number of unemployed individuals 16 years and over increased by 223,000 in February, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

In February, there were 10,459,000 unemployed individuals age 16 and over, which was up 223,000 from January, when there were 10,236,000 unemployed individuals.

Meanwhile, the labor force participation rate continues to sit at a 35 year low, and a staggering 70 percent of all Americans not in the labor force are below the age of 55.

That is outrageous.

And things look particularly depressing when you look at the labor force participation rate for men by themselves.

In 1950, the labor force participation rate for men was sitting at about 87 percent.  Today, it has dropped beneath 70 percent to a brand new all-time record low.

The truth is that there simply are not enough jobs for everyone anymore.

The chart posted below shows how the percentage of working age Americans that actually have a job has changed since the turn of the millennium.  As you can see, the employment-population ratio declined precipitously during the last recession, and it has stayed below 59 percent since late 2009...

Employment Population Ratio 2014

If we were going to have a "recovery", we should have had one by now.

Since there are not enough jobs, what is happening is that more highly educated workers are taking the jobs that were once occupied by less educated workers and bumping them out of the labor force entirely.  The following is an excerpt from a recent Bloomberg article...

Recent college graduates are ending up in more low-wage and part-time positions as it's become harder to find education-level appropriate jobs, according to a January study by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

The share of Americans ages 22 to 27 with at least a bachelor's degree in jobs that don't require that level of education was 44 percent in 2012, up from 34 percent in 2001, the study found.

Due to the fact that there are not enough middle class jobs to go around, the middle class has been steadily shrinking.

In 2008, 53 percent of all Americans considered themselves to be "middle class".  Today, only 44 percent of all Americans consider themselves to be "middle class".

That is a pretty significant shift in just six years, don't you think?

For much more on this, please see my previous article entitled "28 Signs That The Middle Class Is Heading Toward Extinction".

Despite what the politicians and the mainstream media are telling you, the truth is that something is fundamentally wrong with our economy.

On a gut level, most people realize this.

According to one recent survey, only 35 percent of all Americans say that they are better off financially than they were a year ago.  And according to a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, only 28 percent of all Americans believe that this country is moving in the right direction.

The frightening thing is that this is about as good as things are going to get.  The next great wave of the economic collapse is approaching, and when it strikes the plight of the middle class is going to get a whole lot worse.

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  • Priszilla

    Nice try kiddo, but economy doesn’t work that way.

    You might try open source: everybody contributes what he can and gets what he needs.

    Oh wait, that was communism.

    So open source won’t work either.

    • Moneyless Society

      Actually, many people already do work that way, and many more are beginning to already. The mind evolves and there is significant evidence that our next evolution is a moneyless society where nobody is left out, period. There are several organizations developing communities that will no longer need money once they are well-established, and work will be optional. More time to do what you like. Once people see the quality of life in these communities, some of which will purposefully be oriented as teacher/demonstration communities, it will be quite difficult for them to not want to participate themselves.

      • JustMyOpinion

        I recently read a book written by a woman that said she was weeks away from asking her husband for a divorce after a 20 year marriage. They had a trip planned abroad. While visiting the other country, their marriage was healed and they stayed together. They ended up relocating to the other country and now live happily together. The book said that the majority of their problems were due to the demands of life in the USA. Americans are expected to work all day, and work several jobs too (studies have shown that the USA works more than any other industrialized country). Then, after work, Americans are expected to earn degree after degree to prove their value, and to establish themselves in the “worthy and desirable” class. So, there is no time left for a marriage or children. Yet, we ask ourselves why so many Americans are miserable. We ask ourselves why the divorce rate is so high in the USA. Yet, few seem to want to admit that spending all of our time at work and school leaves no time for family.

        Did you know that Rockefeller took a 10 WEEK course to become a bookkeeper? So, how did we go from needing 10 weeks of training for a good career to needing 4+ years of college to get a career that actually pays the bills? Also, why don’t all jobs pay a living wage like they used to in the USA?

        • butisittrue

          What is the name of this book?

        • butisittrue

          What is the name of this book? Who is the author?

        • Priszilla

          Sometimes you just need to stop and ask yourself what are you working for?

          Would you be better off with a smaller house, but more time to do things?

          Do you really need that car or could you walk to work?

          My new job pays 20% less than the last one, but now I can walk to work, no need to wait for the bus and then pay for it. No need for that car, the insurance, the tax, the MOT, repairs, fuel, parking tickets, fear of vandalism or theft.

          And on the way home I pop into the grocer and do the shopping without wasting time looking for that free parking spot.

          Even though I am walking, I am now earlier home than before. Then, I often had to wait for an hour for the bus. Now I walk 40 minutes.

        • Lester

          Hope you enjoy your life in some 3rd world craphole. I think I like it here in the US better. You don’t need 4 years of college to get a good job. There are thousands of blue collar jobs going begging for lack of people with common sense and a little training. Many morons have bought into the notion that hard work is beneath their dignity.

      • Priszilla

        I tell you what will happen – the government will raise tax on such communities.

        Calculating the benefits you get from such communities, translating that into “money worth” and then charging you tax.

        If you don’t pay, you go to prison, where you work as a slave for some corporation to work your “debt” off.

        And youre children are raised by “proper patriots”.

  • Alleged Comment

    You forgot one thing big Mac.

    For every reaction there is an opposite reaction. For every retailer that went down another indicated increased sales.

    Say like Walmart vs Costco.
    Starbucks vs McDonalds.
    Sears vs Home Depot, etc.

    • onceproudamerican

      But they are not hiring more people to make up for all of the jobs lost and the lost rental income of the shopping centers. Not only that but the vast majority of the jobs lost will not come back. Net-Net a sizable negative impact on the US economy as well as those of the specific localities involved.

  • Guest

    In the year 1850 our ancestors did not know about a mcdonalds or a sears or blockbuster–they farmed their own land, and if they needed supplies they went to a general store–privately owned–and bought supplies from a person they knew by name. Now in today’s america if a sears or wal-mart of j.c. penny goes under everyone sees this as a tragedy. It is in a sense because the stores serve as a sign of the economic hardships we’re facing–yet on the other hand the closing of the stores should wake people up and make them realize that self sufficiency should return along with common sense.
    The Native Americans did not need modern clothing stores and grocery stores and had medicines for their illness until the white man brought over new diseases. The Native Americans did not need t.v., i-pods, smart phones, internet, dams, nuclear power plants, and they lived long, healthy lives. Now, look at america today.GMO’s, processed foods, chem-trails, poison vaccinations–our children can’t even play outside anymore.
    America is the way it is because ‘we the people’ have allowed it. It’s no one’s fault but our own. I take responsibility. Our forefathers fought tyranny–we allow it.

  • mleblanc138

    “Space Available” is quickly becoming America’s hottest new retail store.

  • faustinaagatha

    I live just out the DC beltway, an admittedly skewed population. However, the shopping centers have full parking lots. What do other readers see in their area?

    • getreal5

      It is skewed. You should try going out of your area, on a day trip. you’ll be shocked. Try west about 120 miles and then you’ll know.

      • faustinaagatha

        getreal; What part of the country are you from?

        • getreal5

          Pretty much everywhere.I travel a lot from Alaska down to Texas and i have family spread out through Alabama ,Georgia, Florida and Michigan.Some places are worse than others but in general its bad.

          • faustinaagatha

            Thanks for your reply. I do remember getting off the interstate and driving back roads in rural Ohio. The small towns did not seem to be doing well unless there was a college, etc nearby.

          • getreal5

            One college town i know of is TLU in Seguin,TX. the town is being hard hit in the restaurant businesses shutting down.Used to be for years they were all making good money but that’s what happens when discretionary income get reduced. The only winners in any economy are bars People drink out of misery, or celebration.

  • deciodantas

    Reading the True and Sincere comments I realized a shocking tendency fm the people that really say something. I read somewhere don t remember where but read the lost decades of Japan..and the sentiment there in Japan was Why consumer why society of consuption? In Japan in the 80 s there some yuppies that placed in the pockets americans or europeans, it was a massive society of consume now the sentiment there is I don t need a 50 some LCD TV Screem , i m happy with a small device. So nobody is consuming there and this is a domino effect and are entering at the 3rd decade. Transnational companies outsorced the jobs, government lends money w/o interest, government tries hard to make inflation, no possible…
    And reading the comments here by americans I see a tendency of no consuption, the biggest difference fm that japanese society is that they have tremendous surplus of money, they have debt , but situation in the USA is worrying….

  • oooBooo

    In these 20 facts, a lot of mismanagement, obsolete business models, and poor product is covered. Businesses that rightfully should be suffering even in a good economy.

    • onceproudamerican

      True in many of the individual instances, but as a whole it means all we are hearing are lies about any ‘recovery’… All that empty retail spaces isn’t likely to be re-leased any time soon if Obamacare is allowed to exist and if the raise the minimum wage. Much of that retail space still has notes to be paid whether it is leased or not. .Neither political party has even any fantasies about policies that would encourage people/businesses to invest, and create jobs… You would have to be crazy to invest in the US with the government constantly meddling in ways that increase costs. Business is hard enough without having folks who have never been in business making rules as to how you must run your’s!

  • peace angel

    NOT ONLY WILL THIS AFFECT THE PEOPLE WHO WORK IN THESE STORES, BUT one in four people depend on retail stores and sales for their living, like truck drivers and clothing wholesalers, and clothing makers (in China) and many more people depend on each one of these stores for their income. America is the most consumptive nation on earth and we have three times too many malls,retail stores and wal-marts and now that the wal-marts have closed down mom and pop stores in the rural areas they ARE planning to close a bunch of them forcing lots of people to drive long ways to get milk. ALL roads lead to the big cities and the concentration camps.

  • TtT Engine

    Go to any mall at anytime. See how many people are at the payment registers actually buying anything. The Malls are filled with pedestrian traffic and people hanging out, eating and spending nickels and dimes. This is what happens when people’s disposable income is decimated by obese gargantuan government which confiscates our money and we go broke buying food, filling our gas tanks and paying rip-off insurance premiums. White Flint in MD has closed and many U.S. Malls are in bankruptcy. How safe are shopping malls ? Look at the killing in the parking lot of the Short Hills Mall. Maybe the family stores will make a comeback ? Christi Fidelis !

    • faustinaagatha

      I thought White Flint closed to be redeveloped?

  • wally

    I live in San Diego and you do not see anything of what Michael writes in his blog. The gas lamp (mostly bars and restaurants) is packed to the hilt every weekend and Thursdays to boot. Malls here are packed. I just got back from Vegas, yea gambling revenues are down on the strip like 1.5% but it is still packed. Went to the MGM last Friday and it was barely walking room, packed. All of the tables were packed. Mostly young adults.

    Hey look I believe things are bad in other places but I don’t see it here yet. I still have my mid level job. Friends are still getting jobs. Two friends just got $30+ an hour jobs within the last few months. Most people here think things are just fine.

    • k

      What kind of jobs are they getting? I am not questioning what you said, i am really curious.

      • wally

        One was with Novatel as a master planner and the other was with a company that is contracted to do work on Navy ship electronic systems.

        • signalfire1

          San Diego is dripping with DOD money.

  • JD

    Micheal,thanks for your blog. In where I live which has had more of the wealth effecct to sustain the economy it is now grim. Grim as in white people homeless(no offense here others)who in different times would be laborers, carpenters, ect. ect. The “imported” slave labor takes that away.
    Talked with a guy who completely lost everyhing. And was in 7/11 parking lot, just got out of a coma, dumped on the street.
    And amazed it didn’t suprise me.
    I am sure now we are Weimar.

    • faustinaagatha

      What part of the country do you live?

  • dabub

    We’re moving back to the dark ages! Only this time everyone has nuclear weapons! Good luck with that!

  • Michael DC Bowen

    We have a consumer economy funding a lot of crap retail of Americans in the ‘middle class’ who buy a lot of crap with their disposable income. All that’s going on here is that the disposable income is drying up and Americans are going to have to stop buying crap. All the crap stores are going out of business because Americans are stopping being crap consumers. This means that American garages won’t be piled up with crap and can actually be used to park two cars, because nobody’s going to be able to afford three.

    The mall is going away. So what? We will stop buying SUVs and minivans and filling them up with crap from the big crap filled malls. Instead, we’ll shop online and UPS and FedEx will have the large vehicles. It will all be more efficient anyway.

    Same thing with crap junk food. Suddenly, when you have a choice between potatoes and Hot Pockets, you won’t spend crap money on crap food. Same thing with designer clothes, $200 sunglasses, and all those crap products that pretend to be tools, like Swiffer. WTF is a Swiffer but a disposable mop. What? It’s the old razorblade trick and ‘middle class’ Americans are thinking they are getting their kitchen floor “3x cleaner”! Yeah right. Broom. Mop. Duster. Buy once keep for 5 years. Simple. That’s the way the American economy will shrink. People will start to think twice about expensive non-necessary crap and not buy it. The wave of the future is smart, durable goods. No more kitchen remodeling. No more drive mowers. No more craft beer. No more $75 sandals. No more George Foreman grills. No more designer vacuum cleaners. No more disposable income for disposable consumer goods. NO MORE HIPSTERS!

  • cherylmeril

    Because of Amazon that gives free two day shipping with a $79/yr membership to Prime.

    • signalfire1

      And your stuff is delivered a day or two later by a good looking cheerful hunk!

  • JustMyOpinion

    Isn’t it amazing that there is a group of people that think they deserve the whole earth and every other human does not? Why do they think they are better? The only reason many of them sit where they sit is because the game is rigged and always has been.

  • JoeGoldner

    With Sbarros going bankrupt yesterday and both Staples and Radio Shack closing thousands of stores, proves once again the damages that the progressive policies have caused. Obamacare is the main reason and many more businesses will close their doors too in the future unless we start voting out all the democrats and change direction. Today is a good day to start doing just that by making sure Democratic candidate Alex Sink loses today in Florida CD 13 congressional race. VOTE DAVID JOLLY TODAY! SAVE AMERICA! SAVE YOUR JOB! SAVE YOUR CAREER! VOTE DAVID JOLLY TODAY!

  • JK474

    Don’t worry. That new immigration bill that the senate passed and that John Boehner wants to see passed in the house will double legal immigration. American corporations will never have to hire an American citizen again. That should fix things.

  • Sonbeams

    As Hu Jintao said to Barack Obama at the 2011 meeting of the G-20 countries in Cannes, France: “Your economy is living on fumes”.

  • xander cross

    So tell me, who owns these stores again? I give you an hint. They sent the jobs to china and have everything you buy “made in china”.

  • Mondobeyondo

    What on earth is going on?? The main factor, IMHO..

    More people are making their major purchases online. For many people, it’s more convenient to buy a TV or iDevice or Playstation or a pair of jeans on the Internet, and have it shipped to your front door by UPS or FedEx. This doesn’t work as well when you want lettuce or a bagel – it’s not like you can go on Amazon and order a gallon of milk – but even THAT is changing!

    The “legacy” retailers like Sears, KMart, and Radio Shack are becoming relics of a bygone age. They are not there yet, but are rapidly getting there. KMart should get into the buggy whip business. There’s a market for horseshoes, too. Get in touch with the folks at the Kentucky Derby. Maybe they can save you!

  • George Gant

    A four (4) year college degree, especially in Business, Finance and Marketing would have saved you from you from your disaster. LOL. Sorry about that.

  • Roy Mallmann

    I was hoping that Romney would have won add more jobs but the people voted to continue the problem. I thank God every day that I live in Texas as we are pretty well insulated from this. I feel bad for the ones that are not though.

  • Tom

    Most of these 20 ‘facts’ are useless. 1 bn square feet empty? Out of how many bn square feet of us retail? What is history of this metric? Is it trending up, down, sideways? The same basic question can be asked of most of the other points. Isolated data points are useless.

  • getreal5

    The wave of the future will be re-purposing those big malls to have apartments and employment by business within them. The company Rackspace of San Antonio is beginning to do just that with an old big defunct mall.

  • Max

    I didn’t see any information regarding population dynamics. What about the impact of that? Where does that fact that we have lost about 54 million children due to abortion figure in? Not trying to start a debate on morality, but seriously, there is a global decline in population as well…could that not be a factor?

  • Maneb

    Don’t happy. The FED will just create trillions more of US toilet paper aka “money”. Then all will be well.

  • maxx

    My business is solely dependent upon Kohls. It is down about 30% from one year ago, 60% from 2 years ago and down 80% from 5 years ago.

  • justin

    We know that Obama’s policy has really hurt this country. Never again can we ever allow a liberal to be in the office. I have witness too many people going on welfare. Obama will go down as the worst president in the history of US for sure.

  • Hammerstrike

    The Militancy will re-convert these stores into factories.

  • mensa141

    Funny the last two were demoncrats. Johnson has to be high on yoru list for the war on poverty (lost) as well as the Vietnam war (lost also). Jimmy
    Carter did so well as is our current person in office.

  • Ellen

    #19. Yeah, Walmart goes in to rural communities and closes down every independent business in the county. Then complains that they aren’t doing so good (imagine that? they are the only employer now, and don’t pay anyone a living wage…the math ain’t so hard to do) and closes that store, leaving a completely underserved rural area. It’s “just a business decision” for them. But their presence AND their closing has wrecked a particular devastation in many rural areas. Yet another reason to hate Walmart. People in rural areas should fight tooth and nail to NOT have Walmart open in their towns.

  • Wayne Kennedy

    Millions of people continue to stream in as jobs become fewer and outsourced to the countries they came from. In the short term the middle class gets higher rents low vacancies and hundreds of applicants for every “job”.

  • Evan Elliott

    In Salt Lake City st this time, a lot of stuff is going up but I don’t know how much longer it can hold out. In West Jordan where I live, there are 5 or 6 Walmarts within a 5-7 mile radius of my home. Isn’t that a bit ridiculous? We are seeing an orchestrated deconstruction of the U.S. Economy, no doubt about it but part of me dosen’t mind seeing a lot of these store go down.

    Corporations feed off of other corporations. Thats a well known fact for so many obvious reasons. What has really stood out for me over the last decade or so is just the literal homogenization of our country. So hard to turn the corner without finding those quintessential shopping centers that contain usually a walmart, a home depot, a mocdonalds or some other unhealthy food options and the usual other stores.

    There is no uniqueness to our communities. I grew up in Denver in the 1990s and I reside in Salt Lake City as an adult.

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