For many U.S. retailers, the sales situation is so bad that it is not a question of whether they will cut stores, but when and how many.
After years in an unsteady economic climate, being battered by e-commerce on one hand and more effective bricks-and-mortar competitors on the other, these chains need the relief that shrinking can provide.
But widespread store closings don't always portend the end for a chain. For example, Gap (GPS) announced in 2011 it would shutter 21% of its U.S. store base. It has since transformed itself into a much more successful clothing retailer. As a company completes the process of downsizing, its store operations likely will become even more efficient and its margins greater.
Whether it saves them or not, only time will tell. But these are the eight retailers that will close the most stores in 2013.
The 8 Retailers That Will Close the Most Stores in 2013
Forecast store closings: 200 to 250 Number of U.S. stores:1,056 One-year stock performance: -36.8%
The holiday season was rough for Best Buy (BBY). Same-store sales declined by 1.4% year-over-year, with international stores posting a 6.4% decline while U.S. same-store sales were flat. Company-wide, the electronics retailer reported that holiday revenue had declined to $12.8 billion from $12.9 billion the year before. In the most recent completed quarter, during which same-store sales declined 4.3%, the company reported a loss of 4 cents per share.
Best Buy has been plagued by the trend of "showrooming" -- customers using stores to get real-world looks at products, then purchasing them online. Speculation persists that former chairman and founder Richard Schulze may buy the company and take it private.
Forecast store closings: Kmart 175 to 225, Sears 100 to 125 Number of U.S. stores: 2,118 One-year stock performance: 8.8%
Both Sears and Kmart have been going down the tubes for a long time, steadily losing their middle-income shoppers to retailers such as Walmart (WMT) and Target (TGT). Sears Holding's (SHLD) same-store sales have declined for six years. In the most recent year, same-store sales at the namesake franchise fell by 1.6% and at Kmart by 3.7%.
The company is already in the process of downsizing its brick-and-mortar presence. In 2012, Sears announced it was shutting 172 stores. CEO Lou D'Ambrosio is leaving in February, to be replaced by Chairman and hedge-fund manager Edward Lampert, who has minimal operating experience in retail management.
Forecast store closings: 300 to 350 Number of U.S. stores: 1,100 One-year stock performance: -53.6%
J.C. Penney has been going through a rough stretch. In the most recent quarter, same-store sales fell by 26.1% year-over-year. Even its Internet sales have taken a turn for the worse, falling 37.3% in the third quarter, compared to the prior year.
The retailer's current troubles began after former Apple (AAPL) retail chief Ron Johnson took the helm and launched an ambitious transformation plan that, among others things, aimed to wean customers off of heavy discounting and coupons, and simply give customers low prices right off the bat. Instead, retail strategists and analysts say, Johnson's vision has created confusion among customers and inhibited any potential turnaround.
Forecast store closings: 125 to 150 Number of U.S. stores: 1,114 One-year stock performance: 50.7%
Office Depot's (ODP) troubles can be traced back to years of competition against OfficeMax (OMX) and Staples (SPLS), as well as big-box retailers like Walmart. All three major office supply chains suffered from reduced business activity during the recession, as well as the rise in popularity of online retailers such as Amazon. The company's North American division reported an operating loss of $21 million in the third quarter of 2012. Office Depot plans to relocate or downsize as many as 500 locations and close at least 20 stores. In the third quarter of 2012, the company closed four stores in the United States, and same-store sales were down by 4 percent year-over-year.
Forecast store closings: 190 to 240, per company comments Number of U.S. stores: 689 One-year stock performance: 8.95%
The shift by customers away from print books toward digital books has hurt Barnes & Noble (BKS). Same-store sales during the nine-week holiday season fell by 8.2% year-over-year. The bookseller has tried to offset the declines in physical book sales with its Nook e-book reader, but sales of that device fell 13% compared to the previous year. The company has already been reducing store count over the past several years. In a recent interview with The Wall Street Journal, the head of the retail group at Barnes & Noble said he expected the company to have just 450 to 500 stores 10 years from now.
Forecast store closings: 500 to 600 Number of U.S. stores: 4,471 One-year stock performance: -2.2%
In November, with the holiday season just getting into full swing, GameStop (GME) announced it would close 200 stores in 2013. The video game retailer, hurt by growth in mobile gaming, which came at the expense of traditional console gaming, saw year-over-year revenue decrease 4.6%, and comparable-store sales fall by 4.4% for holiday period. For the third quarter of 2012 (the most recent for which numbers have been released), gross profits fell for GameStop's three core product segments: new hardware, new software and used products.
Forecast store closings: 150 to 175 Number of U.S. stores: 872 One-year stock performance: 80.8%
OfficeMax, like rival office-supply stores such as Staples and Office Depot, has been hit hard by both online competition and falling sales for technology products such as personal computers. In the third quarter of 2012, OfficeMax reported that same-store sales in the U.S. fell by 2.6%. Midway through the fourth quarter of 2011, the company announced that it would close 15 to 20 stores every year for the next five years. In addition, the company is in the process of downsizing by moving into smaller locations.
Forecast store closings: 450 to 550 Number of U.S. stores: 4,412 One-year stock performance: -68.1%
Earlier this month, RadioShack's long-term prospects took another hit when its partnership with Target ended after the two retailers were unable to design a mutually beneficial deal. RadioShack had operated mobile kiosks at 1,500 Target locations across the country.
The company recorded an operating loss of nearly $60 million in the third quarter of 2012, when same-store sales dropped by 1.6% year-over-year and revenue fell by 3.8%. In 2010 and 2011, the company closed 2.2% of its existing locations -- more than 120 stores in all.
Methodology: 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the weakest large U.S. retailers and picked those that likely will not be profitable next year if they keep their current location counts. 24/7 analyzed the retailers' store counts, recent financial data, online presences, prospects against direct competitors and precedents set by other large retailers that have downsized by shuttering locations. We then forecast how many stores each retailer will have to close this year to sharply increase its prospects financially, even if some of those location closings do not occur for several years. These forecasts were based on drops in same-store sales, drops in revenue, a review of direct competitors, Internet sales and the size of cuts at retailers in the same sector, if those were available.
-- Douglas A. McIntyre, Samuel Weigley, Alexander E.M. Hess, Michael B. Sauter