Which mall stores are closing?

There was a time not that long ago when the idea that malls had killed Main Street was an important business narrative. Now it's malls that are withering under the pressure of having to face off with online competition. Not every chain has suffered, but a trip to the mall in 2018 might look very different than one right now.

And while we're not yet to the point where we have to wonder if the concept of the mall still makes sense, in some markets, giant shopping centers will close due to lack of tenants. Even those malls that pull through will have a lot of space to fill.

It's a difficult transition made even harder by the fact that nobody knows where bottom is for physical retailers. Some chains like The Limited and Sports Authority, have already gone to the big mall in the sky, while major anchor chains Sears (NASDAQ:SHLD) and Macy's (NYSE:M) have laid out plans to close significant numbers of stores.

Expect a number of further complete closures in 2017, and even more chains to close underperforming locations. It's going to get worse before it gets better and here's what we know so far.

Aeropostale clings to life

After filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in May, Aeropostale received $160 million in debtor-in-possession financing provided by Crystal Financial LLC, which, "combined with operating cash flow, will allow Aéropostale (NASDAQOTH:AROPQ) to meet its go-forward financial commitments," according to a press release.

The company has already closed 113 locations in the United States, as well as all 41 stores in Canada. That is likely only the tip of the iceberg for the chain which has its survival very much in doubt.

PacSun emerges from bankruptcy protection

Another clothing retailer, PacSun, came out of bankruptcy protection in September. The chain closed 10-20 stores this go-round (after previously shuttering over 100), but it may be in a decent position going forward.

The company was able to cut its debt, close its weakest stores, and force its beleaguered landlords to lower its rent in many cases. "That's every distressed retailer's dream," Poonam Goyal, a retail analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence, said in a published report.

Sears and K-mart struggle

Sears and K-mart, both owned by Sears Holdings, have been on a slow, sad death march, closing stores steadily in the hopes that somehow less will eventually equal more. In January, plans were made public to close another 150 stores -- 108 K-mart locations and 42 Sears stores.

Sears acknowledged in a press release that the soon-to-be-shuttered 150 locations "generated about $1.2 billion in sales over the past 12 months," but the end result of operations was "an Adjusted EBITDA loss of approximately $60 million over that same period."

That's a relatively small loss that you might think the company could turn around. Things, however, have become so dire for Sears Holdings that selling off inventory and store fixtures to generate cash makes more sense than trying to fix stores that are relatively close to break-even.

Macy's getting smaller

While the overall picture for Macy's has not been as bleak, the company has been steadily closing stores and has plans for more shutdowns in 2017. The company announced plans to close 100 stores in August with 32 of those locations shuttering in 2016 and another 68 set for 2017.

In theory, these changes are designed to help the company focus its resources away from money-losing or marginal stores into various digital ventures. Of course, there has been no concrete evidence that having less of a physical presence will translate into more online/app sales.

Even J.C. Penney may shrink

After being near death just a few years ago, J.C. Penney (NYSE:JCP) reversed its fortunes and has been a surprising success story. But being not dead and being healthy are two different things and even the resurgent retailer may close some locations in 2017.

"We're going through an analysis now," CEO Marvin Ellison said, according to The Dallas Morning News. "We have certain locations that we readily admit we have to downsize."

In 2016 J.C. Penney closed seven stores, mostly in smaller markets. Its 2017 moves are not likely to be as dramatic as its struggling retail rivals, but its weakness is another bad sign for mall operators.

Even more retailers that bombed in 2016:

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9 retailers that bombed in 2016
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9 retailers that bombed in 2016

J. Crew

The apparel retailer has had a difficult few years

J. Crew announced in November that sales at stores open at least a year dropped 8%, following a decrease of 11% in the same period last year.

Now, the company is attempting to change things up. In November, the retailer axed its popular bridal line. A month earlier, J. Crew launched an athleisure line with New Balance — a collection that Business Insider felt failed to live up to competitors' standards. 

Sears

Sears' sales continued to plunge in 2016. In the most recent quarter, revenue fell 13% to $5 billion, with losses widening to $748 million from $454 million in the third quarter last year.

The retailer is closing hundreds of stores, with more than 170 Sears and Kmart locations shuttering this year. 

And, things are only getting worse — many analysts say 2017 is likely the year that Sears goes bankrupt.

Macy's

In August, Macy's revealed plans to close down 100 stores in early 2017 as the retailer looks for a solution to slowing sales and the growth of online competitors. 

In November, the retailer reported that net income for the third quarter fell by 87% to $15 million, following a 46% decline over the same period last year. Same-store sales at stores open at least a year fell 3.3%.

"These figures show a company grappling with what looks like terminal decline," Neil Saunders, CEO of the consulting firm Conlumino, wrote in a note to clients.

Hugo Boss

Huge Boss simply isn't cool any more. 

In a UBS report released in Decemberonly 20% of people surveyed said that Hugo Boss was a cool and fashionable brand, compared to nearly 40% a year ago.

Being off-trend is seriously impacting sales. In November, the company adjusted its sales prediction for 2016, saying sales could decline up to 3% in the year. 

Coach

The handbag maker stopped selling merch at more than 250 department stores in 2016 in an effort to regain its premium, luxury status.

However, the move hasn't paid off yet — in November, when reporting the company's the most recent quarter, Coach said it had its slowest growth in four quarters.

Nasty Gal

A decade after it was founded by then 22-year-old Sophia Amoruso in 2006, Nasty Gal filed for bankruptcy in November. 

"Filing for bankruptcy is actually the most responsible decision for the business," Amoruso said at an event in Sydney, Australia when the news broke, the Independent reported.

The trendy fashion retailer had been through some tumultuous times in recent years. Amoruso stepped down as CEO in 2015. In her absence, the retailer laid off employees and former workers complained of a toxic environment.

It looks like Nasty Gal could get a fresh start in 2017. On Wednesday, British online fast-fashion retailer Boohoo.com announced it was bidding $20 million for Nasty Gal's brand and customer list. 

Lands' End

In December, Lands' End reported a 14.3% drop in same-store sales in the third quarter, with a 49% drop in apparel sales. That marked the ninth consecutive quarter of declining sales for the company. 

To make matters worse, Lands' End has also been dealing with problems in its executive suite.

In September, Federica Marchionni left her position as CEO. According to the Wall Street Journal, her departure was triggered by employees' disagreements with Marchionni's more high-fashion approach to the brand as well as the limited time she spent in the office — just one week every month. 

Aeropostale

As teens' interest in the brand waned, Aeropostale filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in May.

After declaring bankruptcy, the retailer announced it would close 154 stores in the US and Canada. 

"Back in the day, all of the cool kids had trendy brand names plastered across the front (or back) of their clothing. The trend has changed, and style today, perhaps encouraged by social media, embraces individualism and uniqueness," wrote Nicholas Rossolillo in finance publication The Motley Fool. "Online ordering and heavy discounting have also taken a toll on the industry, especially mall-based retailers. Aeropostale simply hasn't been able to adapt."

Kate Spade

Kate Spade's sales have suffered in 2016 as tourists' visits declined and discounting grew more popular, making it harder to sell items at full-price. 

Now, the company is reportedly working with investment banks on a possible sale, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.

The news comes six weeks after New York-based hedge fund Caerus Investors sent a letter to Kate Spade pushing the retailer's board to consider a sale.

"We have become increasingly frustrated by management's inability to achieve profit margins comparable to industry peers," Caerus' founder, Ward Davis, and managing partner, Brian Agnew, wrote.

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