Major Wall Street Firm Expects 25% of U.S. Malls to Close by 2022

May 31, 2017

The current rash of bankruptcies and stores closings as well as the rise of e-commerce and discount chains means that as many as 25% of U.S. malls will close by 2022, Credit Suisse predicted in a new research note issued this week.

That translates to some 275 shopping centers in the next five years. Since the start of the year, the drumbeat of store closing announcements and bankruptcies has seemed unending. On Wednesday, Michael Kors (kors) said it would close as many as 125 of its stores.

Other mall-based retailers to have announced store shutterings this year include department stores J.C. Penney (jcp), Sears (shld) and Macy's (m), as well as the likes of Abercrombie & Fitch. (anf).

The department stores most exposed to malls' problems are Penney and Macy's, which have 12% and 11% respectively at weak malls, according to U.S.-based analysts at Credit Suisse, while Nordstrom (jwn) and Macy's upscale sister chain Bloomindale's have far less exposure.

Indeed, the expected rash of closings is much more likely to hit low end malls than high end ones, or at least those that are well maintained. Simon Property Group (spg) and General Growth Properties (ggp), the two largest mall developers who years ago shed their weakest properties, are at 96%+plus occupancy.

And Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Jeffrey Langbaum said in a note on Wednesday that the department store closings are an opportunity "to replace weak department stores with stronger, higher paying tenants."

Still, there is no doubt there is too much retail space in the U.S. and that a contraction has long been coming: there are 2,353 square feet of space of shopping centers in the U.S. for every 100 Americans, compared with 1,636 in Canada and 458 in Britain, according to recent data from CoStar Realty Information.

What's more, the fastest growing retailers, like Ulta Beauty (ulta), TJX Cos' (tax) T.J. Maxx and The Home Depot are primarily away from malls, meaning the developers will have to find other avenues of growth than retail.

Store closuresSource: Credit Suis se

Credit Suisse projects about 8,640 U.S. stores across retail will close by the end of year, a far greater number than any year in memory, and worse than at the height of the 2008-09 financial crisis. What's more, physical stores will likely face new pressure from e-commerce, which Credit Suisse expects will rise to 35% of clothing sales by 2030 from 17% now.

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