These Valley stores are closing–or could be–in massive nationwide retail die-off

Bethany Clough/The Fresno Bee - A retail bloodletting is hitting the nation as thousands of stores are closing – and the Valley isn’t immune. How epic are these closures?

Wrap your brain around this: As of April, 8,600 stores were either closed or slated for closure in 2017. That’s more than the worst year on record for closures, in 2008 during the recession, when 6,163 stores shut down, according to CNN Money.

In the first few weeks of June even more closures have been announced, with kids clothing retailer Gymboree – which owns Crazy 8 stores – filing for bankruptcy and planning to close 375 stores.

And the parent company of Lane Bryant, Ann Taylor, Dressbarn, Maurices and several other popular clothing stores plans to close between 250 and 650 stores over the next two years.

More than two dozen companies facing closures have stores in the central San Joaquin Valley. Keep reading to see a list of companies that are closing stores and which retailers might be next.

Why is this happening?

Shoppers increasingly turning to the internet is a major cause. Our country simply has too many physical stores given how many people shop online.

But that’s not the only reason.

In the past, lenders would step in when a retailer filed bankruptcy and revive the stores with a cash infusion. But not during these turbulent times, said Jeff Green, Phoenix-based retail consultant who has worked in the Fresno area.

Many stores also don’t have a strong online presence, he said. And some brick-and-mortar stores haven’t changed with the times – either their clothing or the look of their stores.

43%of online sales last year were through Amazon.com, according to Slice Intelligence.

For example, he said, “If you look at Ann Taylor/LOFT’s format, it’s very, very old. It’s the same format they’ve been using for 15 years. That just doesn’t cut it anymore.”

Also, stores like Forever 21 and H & M have lured away customers from more traditional stores with low prices and rapidly changing styles that other stores can’t keep up with.

Young shoppers also have different priorities, spending money on phones and gadgets instead of clothes.

Good news

Not all are struggling. Discounters like TJ Maxx, Ross and Stein Mart are attracting bargain hunters.

“Those folks are on fire, they’ll be fine,” Green said of the stores.

The brick-and-mortar stores that are attracting customers have one thing in common: They provide an experience. For example, shoppers at the Apple store can play with iPads and customers can try on makeup at cosmetics store Ulta.

Fresno is benefiting from this trend: Ulta is preparing to take over the empty Urban Outfitters store at Fashion Fair; and Sephora will open in River Park.

The future

After these closures – many are happening over a two-year period – the Valley’s shopping scene will be different.

“If [customers] want brick-and-mortar they have to travel further and they may be forced to shop online more often,” Green said.

He predicts shopping centers like River Park and Fashion Fair will have empty stores. Fig Garden Village will likely fair better, he said. It’s already bringing in stores that are new to the Valley and its sophisticated customers will likely welcome online retailers that are starting to open storefronts.

But there’s plenty of pain to go around. Several stores in the Valley have already closed. Others are on the chopping block. And a few have closed stores nationwide, but not here. Here’s where they stand:

Closed

Ann Taylor closed its sole location in the central San Joaquin Valley at River Park in January, though it did not appear to be part of a massive closure. Since then Ann Taylor’s parent company, Ascena Retail Group Inc., announced plans to close between 250 and 650 stores.

The Limited, a women’s clothing store, has already closed its store in the outdoor portion of Fashion Fair mall. All 250 Limited stores have closed.

Bebe, a clothing store, has closed its Fashion Fair store, along with all 160-plus stores in the United States and Canada.

The Bebe chain of women’s clothing stores is among the latest victims of changing buyer habits.
Dreamstime TNS

Kmart closed two stores in the area this spring, in Coalinga and Kingsburg. A State Foods Supermarket is taking over the Kingsburg space. Last summer, Kmart stores in Tulare and Dinuba closed. Kmart is owned by Sears Holdings, another troubled company.

CVS has closed two Valley stores as part of a cost-cutting plan. One was on Dinuba Boulevard in Visalia (though the CVS a mile away inside Target is open) and another at Yosemite Avenue in Madera.

Payless ShoeSource is bankrupt and has already announced plans to close three stores in Fresno: at Manchester Center, Fulton Mall and the store at 3235 N. First St., near Shields Avenue. A month later Payless added one more Valley store to the list, at First Street and Tulare Avenue in Fresno. More could be coming.

Wet Seal has closed all its stores, including five in the area following its bankruptcy. The retailer closed two experimental plus-sized stores last year.

Rue 21, the trendy teen retailer,is closing 400 stores nationwide. The Hanford store will close June 18 and the Clovis store will close June 25. Other stores remain open in Selma, Madera and Tulare.

Stride Rite, the kids shoe store at Fashion Fair mall, has closed.

Family Christian Stores have closed all 240 stores, including the Fresno location at Shaw and Marks avenues.

RadioShack has started closing more than 1,000 stores since the end of May, with about 70 remaining nationwide. So far this year, a RadioShack store at Shaw and West avenues closed. Two other RadioShack stores have been converted into Sprint stores, including the one at Manchester Center and another at Kings Canyon Road and Chestnut Avenue.

Potentially closing

These chains have announced they will close stores over the next two years, but have not identified locations yet.

Payless ShoeSource has already closed four stores in the area and four more are on the chopping block. The bankrupt retailer is negotiating with landlords. If deals can’t be worked out, four more stores in our area will likely close. They are at Willow and Herndon avenues in Clovis; the Marketplace at El Paseo near Herndon Avenue and Highway 99 in Fresno; and two in Visalia (Visalia Mall and Mooney Boulevard/Cameron Avenue).

Michael Kors is closing up to 125 stores. It’s not known yet if the one in Fashion Fair is among them.

LOFT, a sister store to Ann Taylor, has one store open in River Park. It’s part of Ascena Retail Group, which is closing between 250 and 650 stores but has not released a list of locations. Five more retailers fall under the Ascena umbrella and could be affected: Dressbarn has four stores between River Park and the Tulare Outlets; Lane Bryant, a plus-size women’s clothing store, has four locations between Fresno/Clovis and the Tulare Outlets; Justice, a clothing store for girls and tweens, has stores open at Fashion Fair, River Park and the Tulare Outlets; Maurices, a clothing store, has five locations from Clovis to Hanford and Tulare; and Catherines Plus Sizes has one store in Fresno on Shaw Avenue near Kohl’s.

GameStop plans to close more than 150 of its 7,500 stores worldwide as customers increasingly download games instead of getting them at the stores. It has not released a closure list.

Gymboree is bankrupt with more than $1 billion in debt. It plans to close between 375 and 450 of its 1,281 stores. No word yet on whether the stores in Fashion Fair, Visalia Mall or the Tulare Outlets will close.

Crazy 8, a low-cost kids clothing store that is owned by Gymboree, is facing 375 to 450 closures, though no list of store closures has been released. Crazy 8 has a store in River Park and one at Visalia Mall.

Closing elsewhere

These chains are troubled and closing stores, but stores in the Valley have escaped the ax so far.

Sears has closed 74 stores in two rounds of closures this year. No stores in the area have closed. However, more closures would not be a surprise as the the retailer is struggling mightily, with one analyst comparing it to the sinking Titanic.

Sears has closed 74 stores in two rounds of closures this year. No stores in the central San Joaquin Valley have closed. However, more closures would not be a surprise as the the retailer is struggling mightily, with one analyst comparing it to the sinking Titanic.
Steven Senne Associated Press

JCPenney announced in March that it would close 138 stores, none in the central San Joaquin Valley. Shoppers then flooded the stores slated for closure and the chain decided to postpone the closing date until the end of July. The Valley has JCPenney stores in Fresno (including a home store), Selma, Hanford and Visalia.

Macy’s is closing 100 stores – none in the central San Joaquin Valley – as slipping sales continue. Macy’s has two stores in Fresno (at River Park and Fashion Fair) plus a Macy’s furniture store across from Fresno State, and there is a Macy’s in Visalia.