Retailers That Will Close the Most Stores

(AP Photo/Dave Martin)

By Douglas A. McIntyre, Samuel Weigley, Alexander E.M. Hess and Michael B. Sauter, 24/7 Wall St.

It is the time of year again, when America’s largest retailers release those  critical holiday season figures and disclose their annual sales. A review of  these numbers tells us a great deal about how most of the companies will do in  the upcoming year. And while successful retailers in 2012 may add stores this  year, those that have performed very poorly may have to cut locations during  2013 to improve margins or reverse losses.

For many retailers, the sales situation is so bad that it is not a question  of whether they will cut stores, but when and how many. Most recently, Barnes & Noble Inc. (NYSE:  BKS) decided it had too many stores to maintain profits. Its CEO recently  said he plans to close as many as a third of the company’s locations.

Several of America’s largest retailers have been battered for years. Most  have been undermined by a combination of e-commerce competition, often from  Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ:  AMZN) and more successful retailers in the same areas. Borders and Circuit  City are two of the best examples of retailers that were destroyed by larger  bricks-and-mortar competition and consumers transitioning to online shopping.  These large, badly damaged retailers could not possibly keep their stores  open.

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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.

5. Barnes & Noble
> Forecast store closings: 190 to  240, per company comments
> Number of U.S. stores: 689
>  One-year stock performance: 8.95%

The move by customers away from print books toward digital books has hurt  Barnes & Noble Inc. (NYSE:  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 device, but sales of that device fell 13%  compared to the previous year. The company already has begun cutting down  the number of its stores in 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 retail stores in 10 years.

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4. Office Depot
> Forecast store closings: 125 to 150
> Number of U.S. stores: 1,114
> One-year stock  performance: 50.7%

Office Depot Inc.’s (NYSE:  ODP) troubles date back to years of competition against OfficeMax Inc. (NYSE:  OMX) and Staples Inc. (NASDAQ:  SPLS), as well as big-box retailers like Walmart. All three stores were  dealt a blow from reduced business activity during the recession, as well as  increased 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%  year-over-year.

3. J.C. Penney
> Forecast store closings: 300 to 350
> Number of U.S. stores: 1,100
> One-year stock performance: -53.6%

J.C. Penney has gone through a rough stretch recently. In the most recent  quarter, same-store sales fell by 26.1% compared to the year-ago period. Even  Internet sales, which are increasing significantly across the retail sector,  have taken a turn for the worst, falling 37.3% in the third quarter, compared to  the prior year. J.C. Penney sales have taken a turn for the worst since former Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:  AAPL) retail chief Ron Johnson took the helm at the company. Johnson’s plan,  among others, has been to wean customers off of heavy discounting and simply  give customers low prices. However, retail strategists and analysts have argued  that Johnson’s plans have created confusion among customers and has been a  further setback to any potential turnaround.

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2. Sears Holding Corp.
> 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 Wal-Mart Stores Inc.  (NYSE:  WMT) and Target Corp. (NYSE:  TGT). Sears Holdings Corp.’s (NASDAQ:  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%,  compared to the year-ago period. 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 the company in February, to  be replaced by chairman and hedge-fund manager Edward Lampert. Lampert has  minimal operating experience in retail management.

1. Best Buy
> 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 Co. Inc. (NYSE:  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.  Companywide, 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 $0.04 per share. Best Buy has been plagued by customers “showrooming” — looking at products in the store and then purchasing them online — in recent years. Speculation persists  that former chairman and founder Richard Schulze may buy out the company.

To see the full list, visit 24/7 Wall St.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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