The Incredible Disappearing Department Store


The average American shopping mall may look a lot different in the near future, with many missing the anchor stores that once defined them.

That’s the analysis of a Time piece that ran yesterday (Jan. 5), which takes Macy’s impending closure of 40 stores in the early part of this year as both a harbinger of the unraveling of the familiar mall landscape and representative of a shift that was already well in progress.

The outlet shares a report from The Cincinnati Enquirer predicting that, beyond the 40-store closure, Macy’s is on pace to shut down more than one-quarter of its 800 locations nationwide.

The Time story points to the increasingly regular closures of Sears and JCPenney locations, as well as those of even a few Target stores, as signs that the world of brick-and-mortar retail certainly is changing.

“Malls just don’t need the big anchors to drive traffic like they used to,” the story quotes retail analyst Jeff Green, from remarks he made at a conference in December. “You’re seeing centers that used to have four anchoring department stores get away with just one.”

It’s not only specific department locations that are vanishing from malls, the story observes, but the brands themselves are disappearing from the retail world altogether. Time points to remarks that Keith Jelinek, senior managing director for FTI Consulting, made to The Philadelphia Inquirer, wherein he observed that while 15 years ago there were about 20 different department store brands anchoring U.S. shopping malls, today there remain only eight. Jelinek further noted that he sees “a strong market for integration with mergers” in the coming year.

Time offers three key contributing factors to the disappearance of department stores: the dominance of Amazon, competition from off-price outlets and the still-growing appeal to consumers of fast-fashion retailers.