During the second quarter of 2011, more than 500 retail and restaurant establishments were announced to be closing, compared to about 1,600 in the same quarter of 2010, according to a joint report from the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) and PNC Real Estate Research. The number of store-closing announcements in the second quarter declined by 66.2 percent compared to the quarter last year.
The stores that closed in the 2011 quarter represented approximately 6 million square feet, which accounted for 0.04 percent of the total inventory of retail space within the country, a 33 percent decrease from the second quarter of 2010.
On Thursday, Gap Inc., which owns Banana Republic and Old Navy, said it plans a 20 percent reduction in North American Gap stores by 2013 but will expand its Gap Outlet stores.
There were 1,091 Gap stores and 22 franchise stores in North America as of July 30. But by the end of 2013, the company hopes to have 700 Gap speciality stores and 250 outlet stores.
As of July 30, Gap Inc. had 3,248 company-operated or franchised stores across 34 countries.
Emily Russel, a spokeswoman for the Gap, said, "There are plenty of Gap stores across America and in Canada."
She said the company will continue to serve customers through its online channels, which are experiencing growth.
Black said Gap's online business is a significant growth vehicle for the company. The online division is expected to reach $1.5 billion in revenue by the end of 2011, and is on track to reach $2 billion in revenue and operating income of $500 million by the end of 2014.
"It's really about productivity per square foot," she said. "Many of these retailers are moving to a smaller box model and, obviously, you have to have the right merchandise. If you don't have the right merchandise, forget it."
Malachy Kavanagh, senior staff vice president of communications and external relations for the ICSC, said downsizing is evident across merchandise categories, as evident by Best Buy's experimentation with kiosks.
Bookseller Borders has declared bankruptcy while Barnes & Noble has shuttered several flagship stores -- even in populous New York City.
"The days of big stores are over, in my opinion, and we'll see this trend for quite a few years to come," Black said.