U.S. retailers announced twice as many store openings as closings in 2021

Bricks-and-mortar resilience in an omnichannel world

Wall Street’s “retail apocalypse” narrative may have finally been put to rest in 2021 as major U.S.-headquartered retailers announced more than 8,100 new store openings, even as the pandemic continued to broadly upend the industry and the global supply chain.

The announced openings are more than double the number of closing announcements, which totaled roughly 3,950 according to analytical work by The Daily on Retail, a financially focused industry research platform.

The much lower number of closing announcements reflects several factors, including large numbers of actual closings in each of the prior several years, especially 2020, when The Daily on Retail tallied more than 10,700 closing announcements.

A stimulus-driven rebound in consumer spending, along with pandemic-related lease renegotiations and balance sheet restructurings, also helped keep store-closing numbers down.

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Openings remained skewed toward dollar, discount, off-price and warehouse clubs

As has been the case for some time, store-opening announcements in 2021 were heavily skewed toward the dollar store, discount, off-price and warehouse club spaces. Combined, these sectors accounted for 47 percent of all opening announcements last year, or 3,840-plus stores.

Dollar General announced 2,160 new store openings last year, including 1,050 planned for FY21 (January 2022) and another 1,110 that were announced in early-December and are planned for FY22.

Five Below, which carries an assortment of fun and eclectic merchandise mostly priced at $5 or less, said late in the year it was on track to open 170 new stores and end FY21 (January 2022) with nearly 1,200 stores on its way to a longer-term target of more than 2,500 stores across the country.

Off-price leader TJX announced plans to open 120-plus net new stores on a global base of 4,572; Burlington said it would open 220-plus new stores on a base of 761; and Ross Stores announced plans to open 65 new stores, including 45 new Ross stores and 20 dd’s Discounts on a base of around 1,860.

Citi Trends, another off-price retailer, said early in 2021 it would open 100-plus stores over the next three years on a base of 585.

Costco opened or announced 60-plus net new clubs in 2021 on a base of around 800 and is planning second warehouses in China and France and the first club in New Zealand in its FY22 (August 2022).

Auto Zone

Sam’s Club announced 30 new clubs globally on a base of 800-plus, and BJ’s Wholesale Club opened or announced 16 new clubs on a base of 221.

Auto parts retailers are also opening lots of stores

AutoZone announced plans to open about 200 new stores throughout the Americas on a base of more than 6,700; O’Reilly said it would open a net 340-360 stores on top of 5,616; and Advance Auto Parts also continues to open large numbers of stores. Combined opening announcements for the auto parts sector using the mid-points of ranges are 620, or 8 percent of total announced openings.

Digital natives continue to push into physical retail

It’s important to note many retailers opening stores are digital natives, including Warby Parker, which went public in the fall and said in pre-IPO investor materials it expects to sustain strong revenue growth into fiscal 2022 in good part by “expanding (its) retail footprint.” For fiscal year 2021, Warby Parker was planning to open 30-35 new stores and end the year with 155-160 stores.

Other digital natives opening stores include Vuori, which said it would open more than 100 stores; Fabletics, which announced 24 new stores on a base of 50; and home-furnishings brand Parachute, which said it was planning 20 new stores on a base of 10.

CVS Pharmacy sign in New York City

CVS and specialty apparel/footwear retailers announced the most closings

In mid-November, CVS announced the planned closing of about 900 stores over the next three years, or 9 percent of its current footprint of 9,900-plus stores, and management said it would begin the store closing program in the spring of 2022.

Other big store closing announcements last year came from Christopher & Banks, which filed Chapter 11 in January and subsequently said it would close all 449 stores in 44 states; Foot Locker, which announced plans to close 370 of its 2,950-plus stores; and Francesca’s, which filed Chapter 11 in December 2020 and said in January 2021 it would close half its 550 stores.

Others closing stores include American Eagle Outfitters, which said in January it would close 200-225 of its 880 stores in North America over the next 2-3 years, and Chico’s, which said in the spring it would close 13-16 percent of its roughly 1,300 store fleet in the next three fiscal years.

Methodology

Per The Daily on Retail’s methodology, openings and closings are specific numbers were announced, not completed, and could extend over several years. Also, The Daily on Retail’s tally excludes openings and closings that may have occurred in 2021 but were announced in 2020 or prior.

Patrick McKeever covered retail for more than 20 years as a Wall Street analyst before launching The Daily on Retail in 2019.

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