For the First Time in 11 Years, NYC Is Losing Chain Stores Faster Than It’s Gaining Them

New York may still be a retail mecca to many, but not even the city is immune to the rapidly shrinking footprints of America’s national retailers.

According to a new report by the Center for an Urban Future, the number of chain stores in the five boroughs declined year over year for the first time since the think tank began its annual analysis more than a decade ago.

Of the 331 retailers the researchers analyzed, more than a third shrank their footprint in the city in 2018, outweighing the gains made by the 99 retailers that added locations. Overall, there was a 0.3 percent decrease in national retail locations, or a net loss of 27 stores.

Among the carnage were several bankrupt or struggling shoe brands, including Aerosoles, which shed 13 stores throughout the boroughs; Nine West, which exited three; and Rockport, which lost two. While all three of these brands are still in business even after filing for Chapter 11 (albeit under different ownership), holding on to pricey New York real estate clearly isn’t part of their strategies.

Clothing and accessories retailers saw more closures than any other category, according to CUF, as brands like BCBG Max Azria (-7 stores) and Aeropostale (-5) have shuttered locations due to bankruptcy and others, like Club Monaco (-5) and Gap (-4) have trimmed their store count to focus on only the most profitable outposts. While the city may be gaining new brick-and-mortar entrants like digital-native direct-to-consumer brands (Allbirds, Margaux) and concept boutiques (10 Corso Como), the household names that populate malls across the country are becoming far less ubiquitous.

Only 16 of the 86 fashion retailers the researchers analyzed expanded their NYC footprints in 2018, compared with 32 that closed locations. One mass retailer bucked the trend, though: Target opened 7 locations in the city, bringing its total to 19.

Interestingly, all of the net losses were concentrated in Manhattan, home to more than a third of the total locations included in the analysis — the borough’s chain-store count shrunk by 67, eclipsing the gains made in Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island and the Bronx.

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