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Your Shopping Center, Transformed One More Time

4 minute read

Once-ubiquitous retailers like Circuit City, Borders, and Blockbuster are long gone, and several big box stores have shrunk dramatically in size and scope. And the transformation at your neighborhood mall isn’t nearly complete.

The latest round of retail closures is hitting thousands of stores that were surely once staples of your shopping experience, and you’ll be surprised by what’s taking their place. Here are a few examples of changes taking place:

Abercrombie & Fitch
The high-priced youth apparel retailer has closed 220 underperforming stores since 2010, and it expects to close 60 to 70 more locations in the U.S. in the near future.

J.C. Penney
In recent days, J.C. Penney’s stock price has surged and the troubled retailer appears to be on the upswing. But the news is good for J.C. Penney only relative to far it has fallen over the years. The company has been forced to resort to its “fake pricing” strategies of old in order to entice shoppers back into stores, and as J.C. Penney announced earlier this year, it is closing 33 stores and cutting 2,000 jobs in order to help it save $65 million annually.

(MORE: Another Electronics Retail Chain Bites the Dust)

Shortly before J.C. Penney announced its store closure plan, Macy’s said it would be closing five stores and laying off 2,500 employees.

Radio Shack
As many as 1,100 Radio Shack locations will be shut down after reports surfaced this week indicating store sales had fallen 19% during the fourth quarter of 2013. Analysts have pointed out that Radio Shack’s problems come down to one simple, though huge, issue: It has run out of products to sell that people need and can’t buy elsewhere for cheaper prices, and with more convenient transactions.

Within weeks of announcing it was closing 155 locations (out of 400) in North America due to underperformance and flagging sales, the mall food court fixture Sbarro is now reportedly preparing to file for bankruptcy protection.

In a continuation of the plan first set in place in 2010 to eliminate some 300 locations, Sears made news earlier this year by saying it would close its flagship store in Chicago by spring 2014. Another noteworthy Sears—in Seattle, in place since 1925 and reportedly the oldest continuously run Sears in the country—is also getting the axe.

(MORE: Does Kmart’s Hilarious New Ad Acknowledge That Kmart Stores Are Hopeless?)

Some 225 Staples stores—roughly 12% of its total in North America—will be closed in a strategy the company hopes will help it save $500 million by 2015.

Unusual New Tenants
As department stores disappear from malls, shopping centers are seeking new “retail anchors,” as the Washington Post put it in a report on 2014 retail trends, and increasingly, these anchors are gym chains like Equinox. Sorta makese sense: At least in theory, gyms are places that members should be visiting on a regular basis, and a gym’s retail neighbors in the mall have to like the idea that potential shoppers are guilted into swinging by a few times a week.

Among the other unusual new businesses occupying space that might have otherwise been filled by Abercrombie & Fitch: The Great Mall of the Plains in Olathe, Kansas, which already has non-retail attractions such as an indoor amusement park and a glow-in-the-dark mini golf course, recently welcomed a new non-profit art studio, where students can try their hands at watercolor painting, card making, and other classes. That’s far from the strangest new mall inhabitant, however. As highlighted by NPR recently, malls in southern California now host informational kiosks for funeral home services—for instance, one is set up in between a woman’s clothing store and a LensCrafters.

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