Over the past couple years, the COVID pandemic and record-high inflation have levied a mountain of financial pressure onto retailers across the board. Department stores, however, had already been struggling—so new challenges ended up the final nail in the coffin for some. Both America's oldest department store Lord&Taylor and the discount department chain Stein Mart were forced to shutter all their stores in 2020, and they're not alone. Other beloved chains like JCPenney and Dillard's have been reducing their retail footprints as well. Now, locations are disappearing. Read on to find out which popular department stores are closing locations starting next month.
Department stores have struggled to remain relevant to shoppers.
The fall of the traditional department store has been slow but significant. According to The Washington Post, roughly 40 percent of all department stores in the U.S. have closed since 2016. While these shopping spaces once offered convenience to shoppers, Mark Cohen, director of retail studies at Columbia Business School and former chief executive of Sears Canada, told the newspaper that they're now simply too overwhelming for shoppers who can easily find convenience elsewhere.
"There's nothing department stores have done to make themselves particularly relevant in the 21st century, and the pandemic has only made that more clear," Cohen explained. "They have too many stores, too many things, too many brands. The customer who used to be handcuffed to their local department store is no longer tethered because they have an online alternative that's become even more attractive in the last year."
Commercial real estate firm Green Street has predicted that at least another 800 department stores are expected to be shuttered by the end of 2025, according to The Washington Post. Now, at least two retailers are contributing to that projection.
Two different companies are closing stores.
Both Bloomingdale's and Sears are adding locations to the department store graveyard soon. The Bloomingdale's in Skokie, Illinois, will begin closing on Sept. 6, CBS News reported. According to the news outlet, the company announced that it will begin clearance at the location that day and expects to be completely out-of-business by October.
Over in Wisconsin, a Sears Hometown store in Cudahy is gearing up to be shuttered soon, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported on Aug. 25. The location already has yellow signs indicating a "store closing event" and advertising various markdowns, according to the newspaper. A store employee said the markdowns have been "pretty aggressive," but revealed that they have not yet been notified of a specific date for the closure.
But the Bloomingdale's is getting replaced by a new store concept.
The Sears Hometown in Cudahy is closing just a year after it opened in late 2021, and city officials told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that they are not yet aware of any sale of the building. The Bloomingdale's closure in Skokie, on the other hand, is actually part of a larger plan for the company to open a smaller format store in the same mall. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the 200,000-square-foot Bloomingdale's in the Westfield Old Orchard mall is vanishing in place of a new 50,000-square-foot apparel store called Bloomie's.
"The new concept remains authentic to the Bloomingdale's brand yet reinterprets it on a smaller scale that is infused with energy and ripe for discovery," Charles Anderson, the company's director of stores, told the newspaper. Another company spokesman said that the Bloomie's location will take over a former Barnes&Noble space in the mall, likely in November.
Macy's has been experimenting with smaller store formats since 2020.
Bloomingdale's is owned by Macy's, Inc., which also operates its namesake department store brand and the beauty store chain Bluemercury. In 2020, Macy's started experimenting with smaller store formats. So far, the company has opened five total Market by Macy's stores, which it describes as "everything you love about Macy's, but in a smaller store."
Then in 2021, the company announced that it would be opening its first Bloomie's store in Fairfax, Virginia, according to CNBC. The Bloomie's opening in Skokie will be the second store under the new concept. "Over time, we'll be seeing these large department store spaces get redeveloped for smaller users," Len Becker, the economic development manager for Skokie, told the Chicago Sun-Times.