Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Trying to Predict a Brick and Mortar 2020

It was a very challenging 2019 for brick and mortar retailers. You’ve probably all read about the record-setting year for store closings: more than 9,300 units closed in 2019, which trumped the previous record of approximately 8,000 stores in 2017. So what should the retail industry expect as we move into the new calendar year?

So far holiday sales are looking a bit lackluster. While NPD Group is estimating sales gains of 3.4% between early November and late December, it is alarming to note that online sales again carried the day, picking up approximately 19% versus last year. At best we can say that brick and mortar sales likely finished the season with a relatively flat performance.

Of even more concern was the heavy discounting that occurred at physical stores during the holidays in an effort to compete with online pricing. As recently noted in Retail Dive, MKM Partners Managing Director Roxanne Meyer stated that the 2019 holiday sales season may have been the “most promotional holiday since the recession.” She went on to indicate that retailers never let up on the promotional activity once the Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend passed, which was not the case last year, suggesting that the shorter holiday season put pressure on retailers to drive merchandise out the door.

Moody’s analysts warned in December that six fewer selling days between Thanksgiving and Christmas could “exacerbate the promotional environment” for the period, according to the Retail Dive article. Had retailers produced solid sales gains during the last two months, the heavy promotional activity may not have been a concern. But discounted prices will be cutting into sales margins, and that’s where the trouble may lie

Holiday sales were recently reported for several department store firms and none were particularly favorable. At JCPenney, comparable sales for stores open at least a full year were down 7.5% during the nine-week period that ended the first week of January. Kohl’s sales slipped 0.2% among comparable stores for a similar time frame, while Macy’s experienced a 0.6% decline. Accentuating the weakness is the fact that online sales are generally included in comp store sales figures.

Similarly, mall-based retailers also had a tough go of it during the holiday season. L Brands comp sales fell 3.0%, while Urban Outfitters dropped 1.0%. One of the latest retailers to report holiday sales was Target, which had been experiencing a very strong year through the third quarter. However, Target’s comp sales during the holidays finished with a surprisingly meager 1.4% gain versus last year’s rather robust 5.7% increase. 

These uninspiring sales performances set the stage for what could be another taxing year for most brick and mortar retailers (Costco was able to buck the trend, finishing the month of December with a healthy 10.5% increase from the same month a year ago).The widespread emphasis on promotional activity to combat pricing pressure from online retailers during the holiday season will very likely result in modest earnings results, as well as losses, for the year-end quarter and lead to additional store closings. At least 1,700 store closings are already confirmed and we aren’t even through the first month of the year. Retailers we know for sure are already affected are Pier 1 Imports, Sears and Kmart, Forever 21, Gap, Chico’s, and A.C. Moore. Others to follow include Destination Maternity, Olympia Sports, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Walgreens.  All of these retailers have been left behind in the race to effectively compete with Amazon and the entire online sales juggernaut, and are now paying the price. And who don’t we know about yet? 9,300 store closings in 2019? You know what they say: “Records are made to be broken.”

Bob Sheehan
Vice President of Research


KeyPoint Partners has been ranked 6th on the latest Boston Business Journal list of the 25 Largest Commercial Property Managers in MA, with over 11 million s/f managed in the state, and more than 24 million s/f managed nationally. The List was published in the January 10 issue of the BBJ. Investment Sales: VP of Investment Sales Jonathan Aron represented the seller and procured the buyer in the sale of Alpine Commons, a 209,000 s/f, two-building shopping center anchored by BJ’s Wholesale Club in Wappinger, NY.


The Commerce Department said retail sales increased 0.3% last month. Data was revised to show sales gaining 0.3% instead of 0.2% for November as previously reported. Excluding automobiles, gasoline, building materials and food services, retail sales rebounded 0.5% last month after falling by a downwardly revised 0.1% in November. See sales reports below...CVS Health is updating hundreds more of its stores to its new health-focused store HealthHUB format, introduced  at the end of 2018. Currently, CVS has 50 HealthHUB locations. CVS will have about 600 hubs by the end of this year, with a goal of 1,500 hubs by the end of 2021...Gap Inc. announced it has called off plans to split Old Navy into a separate public company.Gap also said Neil Fiske, president and CEO of the brand, is departing and it will appoint a new CEO to oversee its full portfolio of brands, which includes Banana Republic, Athleta and Hill City.


Town Sports International Holdings Inc. has agreed to acquire spin chain Flywheel Sports Inc. The acquisition is expected to close in the first quarter of 2020. Established in 2010, Flywheel has 29 indoor cycling locations across the US. Town Sports is an operator of fitness centers in the Eastern US, California and in Switzerland. Its brands include New York Sports Clubs, Boston Sports Clubs, Philadelphia Sports Clubs, Washington Sports Clubs, Lucille Roberts, TMPL Gym and Total Woman Gym and Spa…Yum Brands has entered into an agreement to acquire The Habit Burger Grill. The deal is expected to close by the end of Q2 2020. The Habit plans to grow to over 2,000 locations under Yum Brands and will be run independently within Yum…Sweetgreen plans to double in size to 200 stores in the next 3 years, growing at 35 to 40% each year...Aroma Joe’s opened 5 new coffee shops in 3 states (MA, ME, and NH) and signed 12 development deals totaling 12 coffee shops expected to open over the next several years. Aroma Joe’s currently has 67 locations currently open and is operating in 5 states, Aroma Joe’s plans to expand into several new markets, including VT, CT and RI...Casper Sleep Inc. filed to go public on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol “CSPR.” As Casper has expanded its offerings, it also has expanded in brick-and-mortar. The company currently operates 60 stores and could have at least 200 stores over the coming years in North America alone. It also plans to expand internationally…Wawa debuted a new small store format in Philadelphia’s Center City. At 3,000 s/f the location is half the size of a standard Wawa. The store includes the chain’s first-ever pick-up window, and will aim to reduce its environmental footprint by introducing compostable straws, reusable bags and an option to purchase a reusable mug for coffee or hot beverages. Wawa operates more than 880 convenience stores in PA, NJ, DE, MD, VA, FL and D.C... Furniture retailer Havertys will open 3 new stores this coming year. 2 locations are former Toys R Us stores. Havertys operates 121 stores in 16 Southern and Midwestern states...Five Below this year will open 180 new stores in 2020... Private equity firm Atticus Franchise Group, which operates Wingstop, Maaco, and Massage Envy franchise locations, has acquired 18 more Massage Envy locations in Colorado…FASTSIGNS signed over 35 new franchise agreements in the US and Canada, and opened over 30 locations. This year, FASTSIGNS is aiming to sign 45 franchise agreements and enter new markets…Saladworks opened its 100th location in Howard Park, MD this month…Payless ShoeSource  is emerging from bankruptcy protection this month with plans to reopen some of the 2,100 US stores it had shuttered last year. Payless declined to say how many stores it may open; it once operated 2,500 stores…PGA Tour Superstore will open 3 stores this spring. PGA Tour currently operates 41 stores in 16 states, and is looking to open additional stores later in the year... Sportsman’s Warehouse will open 3 new stores, 1 in CO and 2 in CA, the chain’s first announced openings in 2020, with additional openings likely to be announced in the near future.  Including the 3 new stores, Sportsman’s will have a total of 107 stores in 27 states…Starbucks Corp. is expanding its community store initiative by 85 stores, with a goal of opening 100 locations by 2025 in underserved rural and urban areas across the country. Currently, Starbucks operates 14 community stores…Bedding supplier Tempur Sealy plans to open its first Tempur-Pedic retail location in Manhattan in June and is opening its 56th store at the Walt Whitman Mall, Long Island this month. The chain plans to have 75 to 80 retail locations by the end of 2020... Macy’s has added “Feel Good Story” shops to 36 locations nationwide. The concept is the latest iteration of Story at Macy’s and comes 20 months after Macy’s acquired Story, the experiential Manhattan retailer that reinvents itself with a new theme every couple of months. Macy’s is partnering with fitness and wellness media platform Well+Good on the wellness-focused shop concept, which features curated spaces with merchandise and experiences...Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores will open up to 40 stores in 2020. Love’s travel stop network operates more than 500 locations in 41 states. It has more than 350 truck service centers, which include on-site and standalone Speedco and Love’s Truck Tire Care locations…Casey’s General Stores Inc. plans to add 350 new locations during the next 3 years. The chain currently operates more than 2,200 stores in 16 states.


Pier 1 Imports will close about 57 locations in its current fiscal year, higher than its previous estimate of 45. Pier 1 currently has 967 stores...Macy’s plans to close 28 Macy’s stores and 1 Bloomingdales…Bed Bath & Beyond Inc. has entered into an agreement to sell approximately half its real estate to generate capital. The home furnishings retailer has completed a sale-leaseback transaction with an affiliate of Oak Street Real Estate Capital. The properties sold represent approximately 2.1 million s/f of space, including retail stores, a distribution facility, and its headquarters in Union, NJ. Bed Bath & Beyond will continue to occupy the properties through long-term leases...J.C. Penney is closing 6 stores by the end of April. The company said the decisions are part of an annual review of its 846 stores and other operations.

New England

The 102-year-old No Name Restaurant on Boston’s waterfront permanently closed after years of financial troubles. Greek immigrant Nick Contos opened the No Name in 1917... Top of the Hub, the 54-year-old restaurant on the Prudential Tower’s 52nd floor, is closing down, along with the Skywalk Observatory  on the 50th floor. Select Restaurants, Inc., which owns and operates the restaurant and observatory, announced that the last day for both destinations will be April 18. The decision not to renew the venues’ leases was attributed to Boston Properties Inc., owners of The Prudential Tower... Restaurant brand Cosi has shut down over 24 locations in and around Boston, Washington, DC, and elsewhere, cutting its US locations by at least half. The closures include 8 in MA; downtown Boston now has just one. The company has said nothing publicly about the closures, which may be related to an effort to sell the company...Linear Retail Properties, LLC, has purchased 519 Somerville Ave. in Somerville, MA, a 4,632 s/f shopping center between Porter Square and Union Square, for $4.150M. The property is fully leased to Dunkin’, The UPS Store and Wings Over Somerville. Earlier this month, Linear acquired 1755-1761 Mass. Ave. Cambridge, MA, a 6,291 s/f Porter Square store block, less than a mile away, for $3.625M...Salt & Olive Market, located inside The Garage in Harvard Square, will close by the end of February, its owners announced. The Cambridge purveyor of olive oils, salts, and spices took over the space inside the indoor mall formerly held by Starbucks in April 2019. Previously, the shop had a storefront on Massachusetts Avenue.


Bose Corp. will close all of its 119 retail stores in North America, Europe, Japan and Australia. Bose has retail locations at the Burlington Mall and Colonie Center in Albany, New York, as well as factory stores in Wrentham, MA, Merrimack, NH and Central Valley, NY...Papyrus is closing stores around the US, with liquidation sales already underway. Papyrus says on its website it has more than 260 stores.


Notes: figures gathered from individual company websites, press releases, and Federal filings.  Not all companies report all figures; results not reported will be marked “n/r”. Quarterly results will be updated when available; quarterly figures are shown in italics. Figures from companies not calculated to one decimal point automatically received an ending digit of 0.


The Commerce Department said retail sales increased 0.3% last month. Excluding automobiles, gasoline, building materials and food services, retail sales increased 0.5% last month.

Source: U.S. Department of Commerce -


Treasury Yield Sources:;


The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index® decreased marginally in December, following a slight increase in November. The Index now stands at 126.5 (1985=100), down from 126.8 (an upward revision) in November.

Source: The Conference Board -


Manufacturing contracted in December, as the PMI® registered 47.2 percent, a decrease of 0.9 percentage point from the November reading of 48.1 percent. A reading above 50 percent indicates that the manufacturing economy is generally expanding; below 50 percent indicates that it is generally contracting.

Source: Institute for Supply Management - Manufacturing Report on Business -