Store closures year to date have reportedly now fallen below this point in 2020, perhaps a sign that the retail fallout from the pandemic has turned a corner.
Coresight told Retail Dive that its analysts had tracked 4,626 store closures so far this year on June 28, 5.7% fewer than last year at the same point, the first time that's happened this year. Last year, an estimated 12,200 stores big and small shut their doors across the country.
Meanwhile, there have been 41.8% more store openings so far in 2021 than 2020 at this point, with 1,035 of those 4,311 openings belonging to Dollar General and 393 to Dollar Tree at No. 2 on that list, Retail Dive said, citing emailed data it received from Coresight, the New York-based retail research and analysis firm.
Expansion strategies by discount stores like these and Five Below have been well-documented for their role in helping fill vacant storefronts and new builds alike, including by our Maurie Backman here: "Almost 50% of New Store Openings in 2021 Will Be Dollar Stores."
Thousands of those new openings are, of course, not dollar stores. Brand names like Ulta Beauty, Sephora, Dick's Sporting Goods, TJ Maxx, Marshalls, Skechers USA, and Gap also are joining in the welcome-back party, as our Laura Agadoni reports here.
Retail sales showing reason for confidence
Their confidence may be paying off already. The U.S. Census Bureau reported on July 16 that June retail sales had jumped 0.6% from May during a month that many analysts had expected to show a decline. That June performance was also 18% higher than June 2020 in a broad-based rally that put spending back to pre-pandemic levels or higher in some cases.
"Many retailers are benefiting from increased traffic in stores as well as higher prices for items on the shelves, a much-needed bounceback for many service sector businesses," said Ben Ayers, senior economist at Nationwide in Columbus, Ohio, told CNBC.
We'll learn more as each week and month of 2021 unfolds, and even more retail growth can be expected if supply catches up with growing demand.
"Growing pains from reopening are on the supply side," Chris Low, chief economist at FHN Financial in New York, told Reuters. "Inflation reports earlier this week confirm firms are still struggling to keep up with this demand, but another month of high retail spending should give companies confidence that consumer demand is not slowing down anytime soon."
The Millionacres bottom line
Dollar stores alone can't lift the fortunes of all those indoor and outdoor malls and strip malls that fill so much of the American landscape, as well as the commercial real estate portfolios of big retail real estate investment trusts (REITs) and mom-and-pop landlords alike.
Physical retail space has suffered for years now at the hands of e-commerce, and the pandemic's grip only made things worse -- much worse. Seeing confidence from a diverse array of businesses, as displayed by investing in opening new retail store space, combined with an apparent slowing of store closings, may be a sign of a retail spring emerging from a long winter this summer.