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Retail Store Openings Are Projected to Outnumber Closings in 2021

In the debate about the long-term viability of brick-and-mortar retail, it appears that those who wrote off physical stores based on 2020’s pandemic-driven wave of bankruptcies and store closings may have spoken too soon. Citing data from Coresight Research, CNBC reported that planned store openings outnumber planned closings this year.

U.S. retailers have announced 3,199 store openings and 2,548 closures year-to-date, CNBC reported. While the tally of openings is slightly smaller than 2020’s, the number of closings is more than 70% less than last year’s total of 8,953.

“The rollout of the COVID vaccine keeps ramping up, another round of stimulus checks is landing in many Americans’ bank accounts, and companies are by and large predicting a strong rebound of the consumer,” CNBC reported. “The National Retail Federation is forecasting retail sales in the U.S. could grow anywhere between 6.5% and 8.2% this year, with the economy accelerating at its fastest clip in two decades.”

Current retail fundamentals offer an opportunity for companies looking to grow, CNBC reported. “They will likely pay less in rent and have more flexible lease terms. A glut of vacancies has left landlords more desperate to fill space and sign deals they wouldn’t have ever considered pre-pandemic.”

CNBC profiled 10 retailers with bullish expansion plans this year. They run the gamut of categories as well as price points. What more than a few have in common is an eye for opportunity in terms of backfilling locations left vacant by last year’s wave of closures.

American Eagle, for one, plans to add roughly 60 locations of its Aerie brand this year. “We’re very excited about the malls,” American Eagle chief executive Jay Schottenstein said during an earnings conference call in early March. “This is probably the best opportunity for us to pick up new locations that we’re being offered … at affordable rents for us.”

Other expansion-minded retailers profiled by CNBC included Ulta Beauty, Sephora, Burlington Stores, Fabletics, Dick’s Sporting Goods, TJX, Five Below, Gap’s Old Navy and Athleta brands—and, yes, Amazon. Not surprisingly, Amazon Fresh isn’t the only grocery concept that plans to add locations this year: CNBC reported that Aldi, Lidl, Sprouts Farmers Market and Trader Joe’s have all announced store openings this year.

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About Paul Bubny

Paul Bubny serves as Senior Content Director for Connect Commercial Real Estate, a role to which he brings 13-plus years’ experience covering the commercial real estate industry and 30-plus years in business-to-business journalism. In this capacity, he oversees daily operations while also reporting on both local/regional markets and national trends, covering individual transactions across all property types, as well as delving into broader subject matter. He produces 15-20 daily news stories per day and works with the Connect team and clients to develop longer-form content, ranging from Q&As to thought-leadership pieces. Prior to joining Connect, Paul was Managing Editor for both Real Estate Forum and GlobeSt.com at American Lawyer Media, where he oversaw operations at both publications while also producing daily news and feature-length articles. His tenure in B2B publishing stretches back into the print era, and he has served as Editor in Chief on four national trade publications. Since 1999, Paul has volunteered as the newsletter editor of passenger rail advocacy groups (one national, one local).

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