Best Buy (BBY) is not closing 250 stores. Sears is not closing 125 stores and rival chain jcpenney (JCP) is not closing 350 stores. Office Depot (OD) is not closing 150 stores and OfficeMax (OMX) is not closing 175 stores,. RadioShack (RSH) is not closing 550 stores, and Barnes & Noble (BKS) is not closing 240 stores. Besides the 200 stores that GameStop (GME) announced it would be closing back in November, 2012, it is not closing 600 more. At least not officially. And at least not now.
After 24/7 recently published an article speculating about which retail chains they thought were most likely to close stores, along with speculative store closing numbers, USA Today referenced the 24/7 predictions in an article with a title that was more than a little misleading in its definitiveness. Then the spin spun out of control, and all of a sudden there were reports of nearly 2,500 store closings that had never been announced, confirmed, and according to jcpenney CEO Ron Johnson, are not even being contemplated as an option.
The Dallas News reported that Johnson sees 2013 as the year that his turnaround vision will come to fruition, and only after an official rollout in May can his vision be validly judged. Retail industry analysts, investors and critics haven't really waited for Johnson's permission to judge his vision, and they haven't been patient with his long-term plans. But then again there is little patience for much of anything on the now-is-the-only-time Street.
Certainly if store closings were the easy answer for these struggling retail chains, they would have started already. And perhaps Best Buy, Sears, Kmart, Office Depot, GameStop, jcpenney, OfficeMax and Barnes & Noble should be closing hundreds of stores in the near future. But they shouldn't do it as a short-term strategy to return to profitability, as was suggested by the 24/7 and USA Today articles. Because then what happens after that?
If nothing changes except store count, the future will hold not much more than more of the same. Circuit City, Borders, and Blockbuster have traveled down that road and have shown us that once you're moving in the downsizing direction, there's very little room for u-turns.
So beyond the speculative store closings that are not happening (yet), what actually is the newest news about store closings for the U.S. retail industry?
Certainly it's nothing as dramatic and traumatic as the out of control store closing rumors have indicated.
Barnes & Noble is closing stores, but not in the hundreds (yet). Best Buy is closing stores but they're all in Canada (so far). Bakers is in the process of liquidating its stores as a result of its October, 2012 bankruptcy. Aldi is closing 30 stores in the US, but the closings will be over a two-year period. A small seafood chain called Marlin & Ray's is closing all 13 of its restaurants and going out of business, which is sad for those who know and love the chain, but not really a shock wave for the retail or restaurant industry.
All in all there have been less than 250 confirmed closings added to the 2013 Store Closings roundup list since the last update, which is nothing near the 2,500 store closing rumors that have been bouncing around in the reliable world of cyber news.
The really dramatic news is on the 2013 Store Openings list instead. Starbucks is daring to encroach on Tim Horton's territory by opening 150 stores in Canada. Dunkin Donuts is keeping its 2013 expansion closer to home, planning for 360 openings in 2013, all in the good old USA.
Ace Hardware is opening 15 stores in Indonesia. American Eagle is opening 6 stores in Mexico City. (Will they be branded Aguila Americana?) And while U.S. retailers are busy looking for fertile international retail ground, H&M is planning to open a whopping 325 stores globally, mostly in the U.S.
So comparing the number of stores and the number of retailers on the 2013 Store Closings and 2013 Store Openings list, expansion is poised to far exceed retraction for the U.S. retail industry in 2013. That is, unless the leadership at Best Buy, Sears, Kmart, Office Depot, GameStop, jcpenney, OfficeMax and Barnes & Noble continues doing the same things in the same ways, expecting different results.
We'll know that the leadership teams at these troubled retail chains have run out of turnaround ideas when they start confirming the store closings that have been speculated, but so far there are no leaders of major U.S. retail chains who have been willing to admit that they've been beaten. At least not yet. And at least not now.