The Retail Apocalypse Picks Up Speed As Sears, JCPenney, Brookstone And Mattress Firm Spiral Toward Bankruptcy

Over 20 major retailers have filed for bankruptcy since the beginning of last year, and in 2018 we may break the all-time record for annual store closings that was established just last year.  We are in the midst of the worst retail apocalypse in American history, and it appears to be picking up speed as retail giants such as Sears, JCPenney, Brookstone and Mattress Firm spiral toward bankruptcy.  We live at a time when the middle class is being systematically destroyed, and so the truth is that U.S. consumers simply do not have as much discretionary income as they once did.  Many large retailers believed that things would eventually turn around, and they have been fighting very hard to survive, but now time has run out for quite a few of them.

Mattress Firm

Everyone knew that Mattress Firm was in deep trouble, but it still surprised many of us when it was announced that they are officially planning to file for bankruptcy.  The following comes from Reuters

Mattress Firm Inc, the largest U.S. mattress retailer, is preparing to file for bankruptcy protection as soon as this week, as it seeks to exit costly store leases and shore up its business, people familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.

At this moment Mattress Firm has approximately 3,000 brick-and-mortar locations, and as those stores close down those abandoned buildings are going to be giant eyesores on street corners all over America.

Brookstone

When I was a kid back in the 1980s, it seemed like Brookstone had an outlet in every mall I visited.  But now Brookstone has filed for bankruptcy, and all remaining mall stores will be shut down

Brookstone filed for bankruptcy and will close its remaining 101 mall stores.

The mall and airport seller, best known for massage chairs, quirky gadgets, and travel luggage, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in federal court on Thursday. It was Brookstone’s second bankruptcy round in four years.

Sears

Sears has been shutting down stores for years, but up until now they have never admitted that bankruptcy was on the horizon.

But now time has run out and emergency measures are required if Sears is to survive.  The following comes from CNN

Sears is running out of time to fix its problems, the CEO says.

Eddie Lampert, who controls most of the company’s shares through his hedge fund, told the board on Monday that it must address “significant near-term constraints” in its cash position.

Of course Sears is still not actually using the term “bankruptcy”, but even CNN is admitting that Eddie Lampert used “language that suggested the company could be forced out of business”

Lampert did not use the word “bankruptcy,” but he raised the possibility that creditors could be wiped out, a process that often takes place in bankruptcy court, without immediate action.

He also said it was in the best interest of stakeholders to “accomplish this as a going concern” — language that suggested the company could be forced out of business.

Those that have been following my work for a long time know that I have repeatedly stated that Sears is going to zero.

Now we appear to be on the precipice of that actually happening, and it is a very sad day for America indeed.

JCPenney

Speaking of retailers that are going to zero, JCPenney is absolutely drowning in debt and has a very dismal prognosis for the future

Leaderless, $4 billion in debt and with a stock price below $2, the besieged retailer faces an uncertain fate after posting its latest round of dismal earnings.

“They’re in a leaky boat that eventually will sink,” said Mark Cohen, the director of retail studies at the Columbia Business School and a former CEO of Sears Canada and other department stores. “The prognosis for the future is not happiness.”

In the end, JCPenney is not going to survive, and so America will have to shop elsewhere for substandard clothing at inflated prices.

Bed Bath & Beyond

Nobody is suggesting that bankruptcy is imminent for Bed Bath & Beyond, but if they continue to have disastrous sales results it won’t be too long before they are on the chopping block too…

The struggling retailer said Wednesday that it was bringing on two top management consulting firms to help it cut costs and improve its merchandise. CEO Steven Temares did not name the firms.

The housewares retailer needs help. Shares of Bed Bath & Beyond plunged nearly 25% Thursday to their lowest level since March 2000 because of awful sales during the previous quarter.

We are moving into the most critical time of the year for retailers.  Most troubled chains will hang on through the next three months, but once we get to January and February we will see many of them give up the fight for good.

Meanwhile, some of the retailers that are still doing okay are warning that our trade war with China will likely mean much higher prices for consumers

Walmart Inc. and Target Corp. are among the large retailers and food companies that have sent a letter to U.S. Trade Ambassador Robert Lighthizer warning that proposed tariffs on $200 billion on Chinese goods would hurt consumers and American businesses.

Walmart’s letter, dated Sept. 6, focuses on what it says will be the repercussions of the tariffs, which would apply to goods like food and beverages, personal care products like shampoo, detergents, motor vehicles and paper goods like napkins.

Of course U.S. consumers cannot exactly afford higher prices at this point.  U.S. consumers have been spending more than they are earning month after month, and they are making up the difference by going into ever-increasing amounts of debt.

This is not what a healthy economy looks like.

If we had a healthy economy, the middle class would be growing and retailers would be thriving.

But instead, the vacancy rate at U.S. shopping malls just hit the highest level in six years

The vacancy rate at metro and regional malls around the United States hit 8.6% last quarter, the highest since the end of 2012, according to data released Monday by real estate research firm Reis (REIS).

Back then, the economy was still working its way out of a recession and an excess of malls had been built in the preceding decades. Retail vacancies peaked at 9.4% during the middle of 2011.

Things are not getting better for the U.S. economy.  We continue to see numbers that we have not seen since the last recession, and it appears that things will continue to deteriorate as we head into 2019.

About the author: Michael Snyder is a nationally syndicated writer, media personality and political activist. He is publisher of The Most Important News and the author of four books including The Beginning Of The End and Living A Life That Really Matters.

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The American Dream Is Getting Smaller, And The Reason Why Is Painfully Obvious…

Over the past decade, an unprecedented stock market boom has created thousands upon thousands of new millionaires, and yet the middle class in America has continued to shrink.  How is that even possible?  At one time the United States had the largest and most vibrant middle class in the history of the planet, but now the gap between the wealthy and the poor is the largest that it has been since the 1920s.  Our economy has been creating lots of new millionaires, but at the exact same time we have seen homelessness spiral out of control in our major cities.  Today, being part of the middle class is like playing a really bizarre game of musical chairs.  Each month when the music stops playing, those of us still in the middle class desperately hope that we are not among the ones that slip out of the middle class and into poverty.  Well over 100 million Americans receive money or benefits from the federal government each month, and that includes approximately 40 percent of all families with children.  We are losing our ability to take care of ourselves, and that has frightening implications for the future of our society.

One of the primary reasons why our system doesn’t work for everyone is because virtually everything has been financialized.  In other words, from the cradle to the grave the entire system has been designed to get you into debt so that the fruits of your labor can be funneled to the top of the pyramid and make somebody else wealthier.  The following comes from an excellent Marketwatch article entitled “The American Dream is getting smaller”

More worrying, perhaps: 33% of those surveyed said they think that dream is disappearing. Why? They have too much debt. “Americans believe financial security is at the core of the American Dream, but it is alarming that so many think it is beyond their reach,” said Mike Fanning, head of MassMutual U.S.

Almost everyone that will read this article will have debt.  In America today, we are trained to go into debt for just about everything.

If you want a college education, you go into debt.

If you want a vehicle, you go into debt.

If you want a home, you go into debt.

If you want that nice new pair of shoes, you don’t have to wait for it.  Just go into more debt.

As a result, most Americans are currently up to their necks in red ink

Some 64% of those surveyed said they have a mortgage, 56% said they had credit-card debt and 26% said they have student-loan debt. Many surveyed said they don’t feel financially secure. More than a quarter said they wish they had better control of their finances.

You would have thought that we would have learned from the very hard lessons that the crisis of 2008 taught us.

But instead, we have been on the greatest debt binge in American history in recent years.  Here is more from the Marketwatch article

It makes sense that debt is on Americans’ minds. Collectively, Americans have more than $1 trillion in credit-card debt, according to the Federal Reserve. They have another $1.5 trillion in student loans, up from $1.1 trillion in 2013. Motor vehicle loans are now topping $1.1 trillion, up from $878.5 billion in 2013. And they have another nearly $15 trillion in mortgage debt outstanding.

That is one huge pile of debt.

We criticize the federal government for running up 21 trillion dollars in debt, and rightly so, but American consumers have been almost as irresponsible on an individual basis.

As long as you are drowning in debt, you will never become wealthy.  In order to build wealth, you have got to spend less than you earn, but most Americans never learn basic fundamentals such as this in our rapidly failing system of public education.

Many Americans long to become financially independent, but they don’t understand that our system is rigged against them.  The entire game is all about keeping consumers on that debt wheel endlessly chasing that piece of proverbial cheese until it is too late.

Getting out of debt is one of the biggest steps that you can take to give yourself more freedom, and hopefully this article will inspire many to do just that.

To end this article today, I would like to share 14 facts about how the middle class in America is shrinking that I shared in a previous article

#1 78 million Americans are participating in the “gig economy” because full-time jobs just don’t pay enough to make ends meet these days.

#2 In 2011, the average home price was 3.56 times the average yearly salary in the United States.  But by the time 2017 was finished, the average home price was 4.73 times the average yearly salary in the United States.

#3 In 1980, the average American worker’s debt was 1.96 times larger than his or her monthly salary.  Today, that number has ballooned to 5.00.

#4 In the United States today, 66 percent of all jobs pay less than 20 dollars an hour.

#5 102 million working age Americans do not have a job right now.  That number is higher than it was at any point during the last recession.

#6 Earnings for low-skill jobs have stayed very flat for the last 40 years.

#7 Americans have been spending more money than they make for 28 months in a row.

#8 In the United States today, the average young adult with student loan debt has a negative net worth.

#9 At this point, the average American household is nearly $140,000 in debt.

#10 Poverty rates in U.S. suburbs “have increased by 50 percent since 1990”.

#11 Almost 51 million U.S. households “can’t afford basics like rent and food”.

#12 The bottom 40 percent of all U.S. households bring home just 11.4 percent of all income.

#13 According to the Federal Reserve, 4 out of 10 Americans do not have enough money to cover an unexpected $400 expense without borrowing the money or selling something they own.

#14 22 percent of all Americans cannot pay all of their bills in a typical month.

This article originally appeared on The Economic Collapse Blog.  About the author: Michael Snyder is a nationally syndicated writer, media personality and political activist. He is publisher of The Most Important News and the author of four books including The Beginning Of The End and Living A Life That Really Matters.

11 Rage-Inducing Facts About America’s Wildly Out Of Control Student Loan Debt Bubble

Higher education has become one of the biggest money-making scams in America.  We tell all of our young people that if they want to have a bright future, they must go to college.  This message is relentlessly pounded into their heads for their first 18 years, and so by the time high school graduation rolls around for many of them it would be unthinkable to do anything else.  And instead of doing a cost/benefit analysis on various schools, we tell our young people to go to the best college that they can possibly get into and to not worry about what it will cost.  We assure them that a great job will be there after they graduate and that great job will allow them to easily pay off any student loans that they have accumulated.  Of course most college graduates don’t end up getting great jobs, but many of them do end up being financially crippled for decades by student loan debt.

In all of American history, we have never seen anything quite like this student loan debt bubble.  Since 2007, the total amount of student loan debt in America has nearly tripled.

Let me repeat that again.

Since 2007, the total amount of student loan debt in America has nearly tripled.

But of course the quality of college education has not tripled over that time.  Instead, it has progressively gotten worse.  At this point most college courses have been so “dumbed down” that the family pet could pass them.  If you would like to look into this more, you can find a list of 37 of the most idiotic college courses in America right here.

These days, most college courses do not require any actual writing.  Instead, your performance is judged by a series of “tests” consisting of multiple choice, fill in the blank, and true/false questions.  And the questions are usually ridiculously easy, because most of our high school graduates need to take remedial courses in basic skills when they get to college.

I spent eight years at public universities, and the quality of education that I received was a joke, and that was many years ago.  Now the quality of education has deteriorated so dramatically that most college degrees are essentially worthless from a practical standpoint, but for many professions you still need that “piece of paper” in order to “qualify” for certain jobs.

So the scam continues, and thousands upon thousands of “administrators”, “diversity specialists”, “career counselors” and “college presidents” are taking home massively bloated salaries at our expense.  Beautiful new lecture halls, residential complexes and sports stadiums are going up at colleges and universities all over the country, and textbook publishers are laughing all the way to the bank.

If everything but the basics was stripped away, the cost of actually delivering a college education to students would be quite low.  In fact, most learning could be done over the Internet.

But instead, the “college education industry” has convinced all of us that we desperately need their services, and that we shouldn’t care about the price.

Of course many of our young people are filled with regret once they get out into the real world and they realize that student loan debt is going to financially cripple them for the rest of their lives.

At this moment, America is drowning in more student loan debt than ever before.  The following are 11 rage-inducing facts about America’s wildly out of control student loan debt bubble…

#1 The student loan debt bubble has now grown to 1.4 trillion dollars.

#2 In 2007, the total amount of student loan debt in the U.S. was just 545 billion dollars.

#3 Over the previous ten years, student loan debt has grown by a staggering 176 percent.

#4 Americans now owe more on their student loans than they do on their credit cards.

#5 In 2003, student loan debt accounted for just 3.3 percent of all household debt.  Today, that number has grown to 10.5 percent.

#6 The current student loan 90-day delinquency rate is 11.2 percent.

#7 30 percent of all student loans in the United States are either in “deferment” or “forbearance”.  The most common reason a loan is placed into one of those categories is because the borrower cannot pay.

#8 It is being projected that a whopping 40 percent all student loan borrowers will default on their loans by 2023.

#9 From 2007 through 2017, “college tuition costs jumped 63 percent, school housing surged 51 percent and the price of textbooks by 88 percent.”

#10 In 2001, 18.6 percent of all U.S. households led by someone in the 18 to 34 age bracket were carrying household debt.  Today, that number has jumped to 44.8 percent.

#11 Each year, more than a million Americans default on their student loans.

This article originally appeared on The Economic Collapse Blog.  About the author: Michael Snyder is a nationally syndicated writer, media personality and political activist. He is publisher of The Most Important News and the author of four books including The Beginning Of The End and Living A Life That Really Matters.

Wild And Unprecedented Price Fluctuations Are Causing Financial Chaos For U.S. Businesses

In every war there is a high price to pay, and this trade war will not be any different.  The normal flow of goods and services around the globe is being severely disrupted, and even though this trade war has barely just begun, it is already having an enormous impact on the U.S. economy.  Even if we ultimately win this trade war and the Trump administration is able to achieve all of the goals that it is targeting, there will still be a great cost in the short-term.  We are going to see businesses fail, we are going to see workers get laid off, and global economic activity will inevitably contract.  Heck, at this point even Fox News is calling this trade war “economic suicide”.  We live at a time when a delicately balanced formula of economic factors allows us to live a debt-fueled standard of living that is far beyond what we actually deserve.  Now we are messing with that formula, and the consequences are likely to be far more severe than most Americans are anticipating.

Let’s start by talking about steel and aluminum.  One of the chief goals of the tariffs was to help the steel and aluminum industries, and thanks to those tariffs we have seen the price of U.S. steel rise 36 percent since the beginning of 2018…

For instance, US steel and aluminum prices have soared since the imposition of tariffs. US midwest hot-rolled coil steel price, the US steel price benchmark, soared 36% between the start of the year and the start of July. This in turn causes prices of goods made with the metal to rise.

That is good news for the U.S. economy, right?

Actually, it isn’t.

Every product that uses steel and aluminum is now going to cost more.

In many cases, a lot more.

For instance, one grill company is reporting that they have had to raise prices “by almost $350 per grill”

Middleby Residential, a California-based company that makes Lynx grills, told the Dallas Morning News that even though the company uses US steel, the recent price pressures have driven up costs by almost $350 per grill.

Do you want to pay an extra $350 for your next grill?

Retail prices for washer and dryers are surging as well.  They have increased by 20 percent compared to a year ago, and that is because prices for raw materials are skyrocketing

Whirlpool Corp trimmed its full-year profit outlook as it booked a large charge on its European operations and said it wouldn’t be able to offset the effect of steel tariffs with higher prices for consumers.

The company said Monday it now expects to pay about $350 million more this year from rising raw-material costs as it faces “a very challenging cost environment.”

Anybody that purchases any products that contain steel and/or aluminum will be feeling these prices increases.

And any business that uses steel and/or aluminum on a regular basis is going to be feeling an enormous amount of pain.  For example, the largest nail company in America is already laying off workers

When President Trump imposed a 25 percent tariff on steel imports last month, America’s largest nail manufacturer had little choice but to raise its prices. Mid Continent Nail Corporation quickly lost 50 percent of its orders as customers opted for cheaper suppliers. Within weeks, the firm had to lay off 60 workers. Up to 200 more might lose their jobs by the end of this month.

All over the country, companies are going to be forced to either raise prices, fire workers or move production facilities out of the United States.

Meanwhile, farmers all over America are facing a different problem.  Thanks to a massive decline in demand from China (thanks to tariffs that they have hit us with), prices are plummeting and warehouses are filling up with food that doesn’t have anywhere to go.

Every year, the U.S. usually imports about 14 billion dollars worth of soybeans to China, and I covered the plight of soybean farmers in a previous article.  But of course soybean farmers are far from alone.  It is being reported that more than 2.5 billion pounds of meat and poultry products that have been produced by our farmers is being stockpiled in cold-storage warehouses.  To help the agricultural community, President Trump announced 12 billion dollars in aid to farmers on Tuesday

As President Donald Trump embarks on a multistate tour through parts of the country hit heavily by trade battles, his administration said Tuesday it will direct $12 billion to farmers whose harvests have been hurt by tariffs.

But the idea faced immediate criticism from Republicans on Capitol Hill.

Responding to farm groups and the Republican discontent, administration officials said they have been working since April on a short-term plan to shore up slipping prices for soybeans, pork and other crops hit with retaliatory tariffs from China.

Sure, this will help farmers get through the trade war in the short-term, but isn’t this exactly the kind of big government socialism that we are always railing against?

And who is going to bail out the real estate industry?

CNBC is reporting that home sales fell a whopping 11.8 percent year over year in southern California last month…

Southern California home sales hit the brakes in June, falling to the lowest reading for the month in four years. Sales of both new and existing houses and condominiums dropped 11.8 percent year over year, as prices shot up to a record high, according to CoreLogic. The report covers Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, Ventura, San Bernardino and Orange counties.

And do you know who has been fueling the extremely hot real estate market on the west coast?

The Chinese.

At one time they were buying up everything in sight, but now they have become net sellers of U.S. real estate.

And there are rumblings that we could soon see some sort of “national boycott” of American goods in China.  The following comes from Zero Hedge

The survey found that 54 percent of 2,000 respondents in 300 cities across China would “probably” or “definitely” stop buying US-branded goods “in the event of a trade war”. Just 13 percent said they would not.

The remaining 33 percent said they were unsure or did not at present buy US branded goods, according to the survey, conducted for FT Confidential Research (FTCR), a research unit at the Financial Times.

The survey was carried out between June 27 and July 10, mostly before the US imposed 25 percent tariffs on $34bn of Chinese goods on July 6. The move elicited an immediate tit-for-tat response from Beijing.

Of course something similar could be tried in the United States, but most Americans simply do not care if a product comes from China or not.  They are simply going to buy the cheapest stuff no matter what anyone tells them to do.

Look, I very much understand that we have been sending businesses and jobs overseas for a very long time.  I have been writing about this for years, and something had to be done.

But trying to fight trade wars with virtually everyone else on the planet simultaneously is madness, and the consequences for the U.S. economy are going to cause all of us an immense amount of pain.

Michael Snyder is a nationally syndicated writer, media personality and political activist. He is publisher of The Most Important News and the author of four books including The Beginning Of The End and Living A Life That Really Matters.

The Trade War Is Already Having A Huge Impact On The U.S. Economy

The trade war has barely just begun, and yet significant ripple effects are already being felt all across the U.S. economy.  Once thriving businesses are on the verge of failure, workers are being laid off, and some sectors of the economy are witnessing enormous price hikes.  Right now the mainstream media is absolutely fixated on the drama surrounding the recently concluded Trump-Putin summit meeting, but the consequences of this trade war will ultimately be far more important for the lives of most ordinary Americans.  As more tariffs continue to be implemented, this will perhaps be the biggest disruption to the global economic system that we have seen in decades.  Perhaps you have not been affected personally yet, but for many Americans this trade war has changed everything.  For example, just consider the plight of soybean farmer Tim Bardole

The U.S. is China’s second-biggest source of soybeans at 34% of the imports, after Brazil, which ships 53%. The staple is used to make cooking oil and seasoning, and soybean meal is found in pig feed.

Now the tariffs have taken the bottom out of U.S. soybean prices, delivering a gut punch to farmers like Tim Bardole. He was already $100,000 in the red last year due to a yearslong slump in cereal prices, and the current predicament has driven him into a corner.

“I’m not sure if I can get a loan from the bank to finance our next year’s crop,” said Bardole.

If this trade war had not happened, perhaps Bardole would have been able to eventually get out of debt.  But now he is facing financial ruin and the potential loss of his entire farm.

Switching gears, U.S. consumers will soon discover that common electronics such as phones and computers cost a lot more.  The following comes from CBS News

Buyers in the U.S. will soon see price hikes on computers, phones, thermostats and “everyday items,” according to the Information Technology Industry Council, a group that represents tech companies.

Hundreds of Chinese components that the Trump administration penalized are used to make everything from LEDs to sensors to printer and scanner components. When manufacturers pay more for their parts, the costs are typically passed on to consumers, the ITI said.

Are you ready to pay 50 dollars for your next phone to support this trade war?

Maybe.

50 dollars is ultimately not that big of a deal.

But what about paying $9,000 more for your next house?

Tariffs on lumber coming from the evil Canadians are adding about $9,000 to the cost of a new house, according to the National Association of Home Builders.

Washing machine prices have jumped some 15% this year, the fastest increase ever recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Are you starting to understand why starting trade wars with all of our major trading partners simultaneously was a really bad idea?

We are about to see major price hikes in just about every sector of the economy.  According to the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the average American could pay over $5,000 more for their next vehicle

Consumers may see an average price increase of $5,800 if a 25 percent import tariff that Mr. Trump has threatened goes into effect, according to estimates cited by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (AAM), a lobbying group for carmakers.

That’s a “$45 billion tax on consumers,” the group said, citing an analysis of Commerce Department data.

U.S. consumers are already stretched to the max, and they will not be able to easily absorb these price increases.

Meanwhile, farm incomes all across the interior of the country are going to be absolutely devastated by this trade war.  Just check out these numbers

The American Farm Bureau says it expects farm incomes to drop to a 12-year low this year, largely because of the trade war.

An agricultural economist at Purdue University, Christopher Hurt, added that 1,000 acres of corn and soybeans would have made a farmer a $42,000 profit on June 1. Now, it could net him a $126,000 loss.

And as I mentioned above, many businesses all over the United States that rely heavily on exports are already struggling so mightily that they have to lay off workers.  The following comes from USA Today

In Poplar Bluff, Missouri, Mid-Continent Nail, the nation’s largest nail maker, laid off 60 workers last month. Sales plunged 70 percent after Trump placed a 25 percent tariff on steel from Mexico and Canada. When the company boosted its prices, customers defected. Now, Mid-Continent is strongly considering a second round of 200 layoffs, company spokeswoman Elizabeth Heaton says, and all 500 employees could be axed by Labor Day.

Yes, we desperately needed to do something about China and other trade partners that were taking advantage of us.  But there is a right way to handle things and a wrong way to handle things, and starting a trade war with everyone at the same time is a really, really bad idea.

I think that a recent piece by Thomas Grennes, a professor of economics at North Carolina State University, made this point quite well

The Trump administration has said that tariffs are a negotiating technique that need not be implemented. Now that tariffs are in place, they say other countries will soon back down. However, trading partners have not backed down, and, in fact, retaliatory tariffs against U.S. exports are already in place. Foreign officials have expressed confusion about exactly what concessions the US government wants. Currently, no formal negotiations are taking place. Higher future tariffs are being announced regularly. There are no signs of an end to this tariff war. When will both sides recognize that interfering with voluntary trade is harmful to both parties? Trade wars are lose-lose propositions.

Unfortunately, I don’t think that most Americans have any idea how exceedingly painful this trade war could potentially become.

The longer it lasts, the worse things will get, and ultimately it could tip the U.S. economy into the worst recession that any of us have ever experienced.

Michael Snyder is a nationally syndicated writer, media personality and political activist. He is publisher of The Most Important News and the author of four books including The Beginning Of The End and Living A Life That Really Matters.

Would This Have Happened Under President Hillary? Holiday Retail Sales Soar Compare To Last Year

We are nearly a year into Donald Trump’s presidency, and the economic numbers continue to look quite good.  On Monday, we learned that U.S. retail sales during the holiday season are projected to be way up compared to 2016.  Yes, there are all sorts of economic red flags popping up all over the place, and I write about them regularly.  And without a doubt, 2017 has been one of the worst years for brick and mortar retail stores in a very long time.  But when something good happens we should acknowledge that too, and many are giving President Trump credit for the fact that retail sales are projected to be up 4.9 percent this holiday season compared to last year…

Despite thousands of store closings this year, Americans supplied a final flurry of spending to give retailers their best holiday season sales since 2011, figures released Tuesday show.

U.S. year-end holiday retail sales rose 4.9% compared to the same period last year, a welcome gift to U.S. retailers amid new signs of consumer confidence.

Of course this doesn’t mean that things have completely turned around for the retail industry.  We still absolutely shattered the all-time record for store closings in a single year, and the final number is going to be somewhere right around 7,000.  The following comes from CNBC

A larger-than-average slew of retail bankruptcies and stores being shuttered rocked the industry this year, making headlines and dragging even some of the better-performing companies such as Home Depot, TJ Maxx and Costco down with the dismal news.

So far in 2017, 6,985 store closure announcements have been made, according to a tracker from FGRT (formerly Fung Global Retail & Technology). That’s up more than 200 percent from a year ago, based on the firm’s findings.

More specifically, the number of store closings is up 229 percent compared to last year.

So yes, we are still very much in the midst of a “retail apocalypse”.

And actually, earlier this month we got news that Toys R US has filed for bankruptcy protection and could soon close as many as 200 stores

It’s hardly fun and games for the toy industry this holiday season with the bankruptcy of Toys ‘R’ Us hurting the fortunes of toymakers Mattel (MAT) and Hasbro (HAS). The sector’s prospects aren’t expected to improve anytime soon.

Toys ‘R’ Us, which filed for bankruptcy in September, is now said to be considering closing as many as 200 U.S. stores, roughly 21 percent of its brick-and-mortar locations, because of lackluster sales.

The fact that retail sales are up so much during this holiday season may slow the retail apocalypse, but it certainly will not end it.

We have got so much work to do to turn the economy around, but at least we have taken a few small steps in the right direction.  The recent tax bill that Congress passed was one of those small steps, but there is still so, so much more that needs to be accomplished.

Michael Snyder is a Republican candidate for Congress in Idaho’s First Congressional District, and you can learn how you can get involved in the campaign on his official website. His new book entitled “Living A Life That Really Matters” is available in paperback and for the Kindle on Amazon.com.

We Have Tripled The Number Of Store Closings From Last Year, And 20 Major Retailers Have Closed At Least 50 Stores In 2017

Did you know that the number of retail store closings in 2017 has already tripled the number from all of 2016?  Last year, a total of 2,056 store locations were closed down, but this year more than 6,700 stores have been shut down so far.  That absolutely shatters the all-time record for store closings in a single year, and yet nobody seems that concerned about it.  In 2008, an all-time record 6,163 retail stores were shuttered, and we have already surpassed that mark by a very wide margin.  We are facing an unprecedented retail apocalypse, and as you will see below, the number of retail store closings is actually supposed to be much higher next year.

Whenever the mainstream media reports on the retail apocalypse, they always try to put a positive spin on the story by blaming the growth of Amazon and other online retailers.  And without a doubt that has had an impact, but at this point online shopping still accounts for less than 10 percent of total U.S. retail sales.

Look, Amazon didn’t just show up to the party.  They have been around for many, many years and while it is true that they are growing, they still only account for a very small sliver of the overall retail pie.

So those that would like to explain away this retail apocalypse need to come up with a better explanation.

As I noted in the headline, there are 20 different major retail chains that have closed at least 50 stores so far this year.  The following numbers originally come from Fox Business

1. Abercrombie & Fitch: 60 stores
2. Aerosoles: 88 stores
3. American Apparel: 110 stores
4. BCBG: 118 stores
5. Bebe: 168 stores
6. The Children’s Place: hundreds of stores to be closed by 2020
7. CVS: 70 stores
8. Guess: 60 stores
9. Gymboree: 350 stores
10. HHgregg: 220 stores
11. J.Crew: 50 stores
12. JC Penney: 138 stores
13. The Limited: 250 stores
14. Macy’s: 68 stores
15. Michael Kors: 125 stores
16. Payless: 800 stores
17. RadioShack: more than 1,000 stores
18. Rue21: up to 400 stores
19. Sears/Kmart: more than 300 stores
20. Wet Seal: 171 stores

If the U.S. economy was really doing well, then why are all of these major retailers closing down locations?

Of course the truth is that the economy is not doing well.  The U.S. economy has not grown by at least 3 percent in a single year since the middle of the Bush administration, and it isn’t going to happen this year either.  Overall, the U.S. economy has grown by an average of just 1.33 percent over the last 10 years, and meanwhile U.S. stock prices are up about 250 percent since the end of the last recession.  The stock market has become completely and utterly disconnected from economic reality, and yet many Americans still believe that it is an accurate barometer for the health of the economy.

I used to do a Black Friday article every year, but I have ended that tradition.  Yes, there were still a few scuffles this year, but at this point the much bigger story is how poorly the retailers are doing.

So far this year, more than 300 retailers have filed for bankruptcy, and we are currently on pace to lose over 147 million square feet of retail space by the end of 2017.

Those are absolutely catastrophic numbers.

And some analysts are already predicting that as many as 9,000 stores could be shut down in the United States in 2018.

Are we just going to keep blaming Amazon every time another retail chain goes belly up?

What we should really be focusing on is the fact that the “retail bubble” is starting to burst.  In the aftermath of the last financial crisis, retailers went on an unprecedented debt binge, and now a lot of that debt is starting to go bad.

In fact, in a previous article I discussed the fact that “the amount of high-yield retail debt that will mature next year is approximately 19 times larger than the amount that matured this year”.  This is going to have very serious implications on Wall Street, but very few people are really talking about this.

Most stores try to stay open through Christmas, but once the holiday season is over we will see another huge wave of store closings.

And as individual stores close down, this will put a lot of financial pressure on malls and shopping centers.  Not too long ago, one report projected that up to 25 percent of all shopping malls in the entire nation could close down by 2022, but I tend to think that number is too optimistic.

The retail industry in the United States is dying, and the biggest reason for that is not Amazon.

Rather, the real reason why the retail industry is in so much trouble is because of the steady decline of the middle class.  The gap between the ultra-wealthy and the rest of us is greater than ever, and we can clearly see the impact of this in the retail world.

Retailers that serve the very wealthy are generally doing well, and those that serve the other end of the food chain (such as dollar stores and Wal-Mart) are also doing okay.

But virtually all of the retailers that depend on middle class shoppers are really struggling, and this is going to continue for the foreseeable future.

Most American families are either living paycheck to paycheck or are close to that level, and these days U.S. consumers simply do not have much discretionary income to play around with.  More hard working Americans are going to fall out of the middle class with each passing month, and that is extremely bad news for a retail industry that is literally falling apart right in front of our eyes.

Michael Snyder is a Republican candidate for Congress in Idaho’s First Congressional District, and you can learn how you can get involved in the campaign on his official website. His new book entitled “Living A Life That Really Matters” is available in paperback and for the Kindle on Amazon.com.