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It’s A Retail Apocalypse: Sears, Macy’s And The Limited Are All Closing Stores

retail-apocalypse-public-domainIt has only been two weeks since Christmas, and already we are witnessing a stunning bloodbath of store closings.  Macy’s shocked the retail industry by announcing that they will be closing about 100 stores.  The downward spiral of Sears hit another landmark when it was announced that another 150 Sears and Kmart stores would be shutting down.  And we have just learned that The Limited is immediately closing all stores nationwide.  If the U.S. economy is doing just fine, then why are we experiencing such a retail apocalypse?  All over America, vast shopping malls that were once buzzing with eager consumers now resemble mausoleums.  We have never seen anything quite like this in our entire history, and nobody is quite sure what is going to happen next.

Not too long ago I walked into a Macy’s, and it was eerily quiet.  I stumbled around the men’s department looking for something to buy, but I was deeply disappointed in what was being offered.  After some time had passed, an employee finally noticed me and came over to help, but they didn’t have anything that I was looking for.

And it is a sad thing, because over the past several years when I have gone into Macy’s looking to spend money, most of the time I have come out of there without spending a penny.  Macy’s has made some very bad decisions recently, and I am hoping that they can still turn things around.  But for the moment, they are closing stores and cutting jobs.  The following comes from the New York Times

Struggling with sagging sales over another crucial holiday shopping season, Macy’s announced on Wednesday that it was eliminating more than 10,000 jobs as part of a continuing plan to cut costs and close 100 stores.

Macy’s, the country’s largest department store chain, said sales at its stores had fallen 2.1 percent in November and December compared with the same period in 2015. Terry J. Lundgren, the company’s chairman and chief executive, said in a statement that while the trend was “consistent with the lower end of our guidance, we had anticipated sales would be stronger.”

Another legendary retailer that really does not have any hope left is Sears.  Every year they just keep closing even more stores, and because they are losing so much money they don’t have anything to invest in the stores that remain.  As a result, the state of many Sears locations is downright embarrassing at this point

But the retailer, famous for selling everything from shoes to vacuum cleaners to whole houses, is facing its biggest crisis ever. It’s closing hundreds of stores. Others are in shambles, with leaking ceilings and broken escalators. In some, employees hang bedsheets to shield shoppers from sections that stand empty.

Since the early portion of 2013, sales are down an astounding 37 percent for the company.  Sears is currently more than 1.6 billion dollars in debt, and they are losing more than a billion dollars a year.

They keep closing stores in a desperate attempt to stop the bleeding, but it hasn’t worked.

In 2010, Sears had 3,555 stores.

Last year, Sears had 1,503 stores, and now a whole bunch more are being shut down.

But everyone can see where this is going.  As I have stated repeatedly, Sears is going to zero, and many of the experts completely agree with me

“They are going out of business,” said Van Conway, an expert in bankruptcy and debt restructuring and CEO of Van Conway & Partners. “This snowball is 90% of the way to the bottom of the hill.”

Of course Sears is still surviving for the moment, and that is more than can be said for The Limited.

Back in the old days, it seemed like every mall had one of their stores.  I remember passing it on my way to Orange Julius and Herman’s World of Sporting Goods.

But now they are shutting down every single location and will be online only

American malls just got emptier.

The Limited, a once-popular women’s clothing brand that offers casual attire and workwear, no longer has any storefronts.

On Saturday, a message on the store’s website read, “We’re sad to say that all The Limited stores nationwide have officially closed their doors. But this isn’t goodbye.” The website will still be up and running and will continue to ship nationwide, the company said.

In addition to Macy’s, Sears and The Limited, other huge names in the retail industry have also fallen on hard times and have had to shut stores over the past 12 months.  The following comes from the Washington Post

The retail environment has proved challenging for a variety of stores: Sports Authority went out of business in 2016, shuttering more than 460 locations in U.S. malls and strip malls. PacSun, Aeropostale and American Apparel each have filed for bankruptcy protection in the past year and are aiming to reorganize and revive their businesses.

So why is this happening?

Without a doubt, our shopping habits have changed.  And in the online world, many of these retailers are being absolutely crushed by competition from Amazon and other tech companies that developed online infrastructure before they did.  I know that my wife and I actually prefer to shop online for many things when possible, and I anticipate that the share of retailing done online will only continue to grow in this country.

But let us also not underestimate the impact that the stagnating economy is having on ordinary consumers.  Thanks to the last eight years, approximately two-thirds of all Americans are living paycheck to paycheck.  More than a third of all Americans have a debt that is at least 180 days past due, and the rate of homeownership has been hovering near the lowest level that we have seen in about 50 years.  As you read this article, more than 95 million Americans are not in the labor force, and that number has grown by 18 percent under Barack Obama.  Homelessness in New York City and other major cities is at a record high, and as a nation we have accumulated the largest mountain of debt in the history of the world.

Let us hope that things can be turned around, but if current trends continue the retail apocalypse is just going to go from bad to worse, and we will continue to see lots of headlines about more stores closing down.

Economic Recovery? 13 Of The Biggest Retailers In America Are Closing Down Stores

Closed Sign - Photo by JamesAlan1986Barack Obama recently stated that anyone that is claiming that America’s economy is in decline is “peddling fiction“.  Well, if the economy is in such great shape, why are major retailers shutting down hundreds of stores all over the country?  Last month, I wrote about the “retail apocalypse” that is sweeping the nation, but since then it has gotten even worse.  Closing stores has become the “hot new trend” in the retail world, and “space available” signs are going up in mall windows all over the United States.  Barack Obama can continue huffing and puffing about how well the middle class is doing all he wants, but the truth is that the cold, hard numbers that retailers are reporting tell an entirely different story.

Earlier today, Sears Chairman Eddie Lampert released a letter to shareholders that was filled with all kinds of bad news.  In this letter, he blamed the horrible results that Sears has been experiencing lately on “tectonic shifts” in consumer spending

In a letter to shareholders on Thursday, Lampert said the impact of “tectonic shifts” in consumer spending has spread more broadly in the last year to retailers “that had previously proven to be relatively immune to such shifts.”

“Walmart, Nordstrom, Macy’s, Staples, Whole Foods and many others have felt the impact of disruptive changes from online competition and new business models,” Lampert wrote.

And it is very true – Sears is doing horribly, but they are far from alone.  The following are 13 major retailers that are closing down stores…

#1 Sears lost 580 million dollars in the fourth quarter of 2015 alone, and they are scheduled to close at least 50 more “unprofitable stores” by the end of this year.

#2 It is being reported that Sports Authority will file for bankruptcy in March.  Some news reports have indicated that around 200 stores may close, but at this point it is not known how many of their 450 stores will be able to stay open.

#3 For decades, Kohl’s has been growing aggressively, but now it plans to shutter 18 stores in 2016.

#4 Target has just finished closing 13 stores in the United States.

#5 Best Buy closed 30 stores last year, and it says that more store closings are likely in the months to come.

#6 Office Depot plans to close a total of 400 stores by the end of 2016.

The next seven examples come from one of my previous articles

#7 Wal-Mart is closing 269 stores, including 154 inside the United States.

#8 K-Mart is closing down more than two dozen stores over the next several months.

#9 J.C. Penney will be permanently shutting down 47 more stores after closing a total of 40 stores in 2015.

#10 Macy’s has decided that it needs to shutter 36 stores and lay off approximately 2,500 employees.

#11 The Gap is in the process of closing 175 stores in North America.

#12 Aeropostale is in the process of closing 84 stores all across America.

#13 Finish Line has announced that 150 stores will be shutting down over the next few years.

These store closings can be particularly cruel for small towns.  Just consider the impact that Wal-Mart has had on the little town of Oriental, North Carolina

The Town’n Country grocery in Oriental, North Carolina, a local fixture for 44 years, closed its doors in October after a Wal-Mart store opened for business. Now, three months later — and less than two years after Wal-Mart arrived — the retail giant is pulling up stakes, leaving the community with no grocery store and no pharmacy.

Though mom-and-pop stores have steadily disappeared across the American landscape over the past three decades as the mega chain methodically expanded, there was at least always a Wal-Mart left behind to replace them. Now the Wal-Marts are disappearing, too.

Of course there are many factors involved in this ongoing retail apocalypse.  Competition from online retailers is becoming more intense, and consumer spending patterns are rapidly changing.

But in the end, the truth is that you can’t get blood out of a rock.  The middle class in America is shrinking, and there just isn’t as much discretionary spending going on as there used to be.

And now that we have entered a new economic downturn, many retailers are finding that there are some local communities that can no longer support their stores.  The following comes from CNBC

Though the shift to online shopping is no doubt playing a role in lighter foot traffic at malls, there’s more to their changing economics than the rise of Amazon. Changing demographics in a town are another reason a shopping center could struggle or fail — for example, if massive layoffs in a particular industry cause people to move away to find employment.

“A lot of people want to try and tie it to the Internet or ‘that’s not cool,’ or teens don’t like it,” Jesse Tron, a spokesman for industry trade group International Council of Shopping Centers, told CNBC last year. “It’s hard to support large-format retail in those suburban areas when people are trying to just pay their mortgage.”

In order to have a thriving middle class, we need good paying middle class jobs.  Unfortunately, our economy has been bleeding those kinds of jobs quite rapidly.  For example, Halliburton just announced that it is eliminating 5,000 more jobs after getting rid of 4,000 workers at the end of last year.

During the Obama years, good paying middle class jobs have been getting replaced by low paying service jobs.  At this point, 51 percent of all American workers make less than $30,000 a year.

And there is no way that you can support a middle class family with children on $30,000 a year.

We have an economy that is in the process of failing.  We can see it in the explosion of subprime auto loans that are going bad, we can see it in the hundreds of retail stores that are shutting down, and we can see it in the tens of thousands of good paying energy jobs that are being lost.

During the Obama years, interest rates have been pushed to the floor, the Federal Reserve has created trillions of dollars out of thin air, and the size of our national debt is getting close to doubling.  Despite all of those desperate measures, our economy continues to crumble.

We stole from the future to try to paper over our failures and it didn’t work.  Now an economic downturn that will ultimately turn out to be even worse than the “Great Recession” of 2008 and 2009 has begun, and our leaders have absolutely no idea how to fix things.

I wish I had better news to report, but I don’t.  Get prepared now, because very rough times are ahead.

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