Retail Apocalypse: 2016 Brings Empty Shelves And Store Closings All Across America

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Michael Snyder via The End of The American Dream blog,

Major retailers in the United States are shutting down hundreds of stores, and shoppers are reporting alarmingly bare shelves in many retail locations that are still open all over the country.  It appears that the retail apocalypse that made so many headlines in 2015 has gone to an entirely new level as we enter 2016. 

As economic activity slows down and Internet retailers capture more of the market, brick and mortar retailers are cutting their losses.  This is especially true in areas that are on the lower portion of the income scale.  In impoverished urban centers all over the nation, it is not uncommon to find entire malls that have now been completely abandoned.  It has been estimated that there is about a billion square feet of retail space sitting empty in this country, and this crisis is only going to get worse as the retail apocalypse accelerates.

We always get a wave of store closings after the holiday shopping season, but this year has been particularly active.  The following are just a few of the big retailers that have already made major announcements…

-Wal-Mart is closing 269 stores, including 154 inside the United States.

-K-Mart is closing down more than two dozen stores over the next several months.

-J.C. Penney will be permanently shutting down 47 more stores after closing a total of 40 stores in 2015.

-Macy’s has decided that it needs to shutter 36 stores and lay off approximately 2,500 employees.

-The Gap is in the process of closing 175 stores in North America.

-Aeropostale is in the process of closing 84 stores all across America.

-Finish Line has announced that 150 stores will be shutting down over the next few years.

-Sears has shut down about 600 stores over the past year or so, but sales at the stores that remain open continue to fall precipitously.

But these store closings are only part of the story.

All over the country, shoppers are noticing bare shelves and alarmingly low inventory levels.  This is happening even at the largest and most prominent retailers.

I want to share with you an excerpt from a recent article by Jeremiah Johnson.  The anecdotes that he shares definitely set off alarm bells with me.  Read them for yourself and see what you think…


I came across two excellent comments upon Steve Quayle’s website that bear reading, as these are two people with experience in retail marketing, inventory, ordering, and purchases.  Take a look at these:

#1 (From DJ, January 24, 2016)


[Regarding the] alerts about the current state of the RR industry. This is in line with what I’ve been noticing as I visited our local/regional grocery store, Walmart, and Target this week in WI. I worked in big box retail for 20 years specializing in Inventory Management. These stores are all using computerized inventory management systems that monitor and automatically replenish inventory when levels/shelf stock get low. This prevents “out of stocks” and lost sales. These companies rely on the ability to replenish inventory quickly from regional warehouses.


As I shopped this week and looked at inventory levels I was shocked. There were numerous (above and beyond acceptable levels) out of stocks across category lines at all three retailers.


And even where inventory was on the shelf, the overall levels were noticeably reduced. Based on my experience, working for two of these three organizations in store management, they have drastically/intentionally reduced their inventory levels. This is either due to financial stresses/poor sales effecting their ability to acquire new inventory, or it could be the result of what was mentioned earlier regarding the transporting of goods to these regional warehouses. Either way this doesn’t bode well for the what’s to come.  Stock up now while you can!”

#2 (From a Commenter following up #1 who didn’t provide a name, January 26, 2016)

“I’d like to tailgate on the SQ Alert “based on my experience…” regarding stock levels in big box stores. This weekend we were in two such stores, each in fairly isolated communities which are easily the communities’ best source for acquiring grocery items in quantity.


I myself worked in retail (meat) for thirty years so I know exactly what a well-stocked store looks like, understand the key categories and category drivers, and how shelves are stocked and displays are built to drive sales and profits. I also understand supply chain and distribution methodologies quite well.


Each of the stores we were in were woefully under-stocked. This time of year-the few weeks following the holidays-is usually big business in groceries and low stock levels suggest either poor ordering at the store level, poor purchasing at the distribution level or a purposeful desire to be under-stocked.


Anyone familiar with the retail grocery industry is also familiar with how highly touted “the big box store’s” infrastructure is. They know exactly when demand is high and for what items and in what quantities. It is very unlikely that both stores somehow got “surprised” by unusually high demand. It is reasonable then to imagine that low stock levels in rural areas with few options is a purposed endeavor to assure that both the budget conscious and the folks in more remote areas are not fully able to load up their pantries.


Simply put I believe the major retailer in question is doing their part to limit the ability of rural America to be sufficiently prepared. Nevertheless, we are wise to do our best to keep ahead of the curve. God bless your efforts, Steve.”


Yes, this is just anecdotal evidence, but it lines up perfectly with hard numbers that we have been discussing.

Exports are plummeting all over the globe, and the Baltic Dry Index just plunged to another new all-time record low.  The amount of stuff being shipped around by air, truck and rail inside this country has been dropping significantly, and this tells us that real economic activity is really slowing down.

If you currently work in the retail industry, your job is not secure, and you may want to start evaluating your options.

We have entered the initial phases of a major economic downturn, and it is going to be especially cruel to those on the low end of the income spectrum.  Do what you can to get prepared now, because the economy is not going to be getting better any time soon.

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Truther's picture

This is fucking Hope and Change for you.

Looney's picture

I went to 4 stores to buy a printer yesterday.

Three of them are out of business (2 Staples and 1 Office Depot).



Dental Floss Tycoon's picture

Meanwhile Amazon is opening book stores!

yogibear's picture

The beginning of the end for Amazon. Eternal hope for the greater fool in the investing community.

Shocker's picture

Retail is not the only thing hurting in this recovery. Oil, Hospitals, a ton of other places.

Full Layoff / Closing List:


Government needs you to pay taxes's picture

The bricks and mortar retail business model is kaput for all but a small fraction of the current potential application universe.  Margins are heading the wrong direction against a wall of slowly incremental taxes, regulations, utilities, and increasing wages.  Meanwhile, the JIT drop ship option has never been faster or easier, and is still tax-free in a number of state specific cases.  As brix-n-mortar dies, waves of unemployed will blossom.  The free shit system awaits!

macholatte's picture

Baltic Dry is a well published index.  How are FedEx and UPS doing? Are their volumes down?
And what about USPS?

Rubbish's picture

I have to look good for the zombies. Being 60 but look 50 because I color my pirate beard, I normally purchase Just for He-Men at $8. To my surprise the 99C store had some defunct beard dye company @ .99 Needless to say, I now own 18 boxes and will style the deadly pants off those homely bitchez.


This is how and why the deflationary spiral only gets worse and you never come out of it.


Gold Bitchez.....I pick up pennies

kiwigal's picture

You need to watch out for those cheap bargains...down under a lady I know thought she was getting a bargain with blonde hair colour and ended up pineapple yellow. Probably buying some toxic product if that cheap.

Gaius Frakkin' Baltar's picture

So Walmart finished another Market Neighborhood Market just down the road (about a mile) from the last one they built. They are pushing this thing hard, on billboards, with junk-mail, and even door to door leaflets. I've never seen this before.

Rubbish's picture

They seem to be very successful at them and why not, EBT mills. I'm the maintenance mgr. for the center they have a larger one in, 50k Sq. Ft. and they have 2,500+ register rings a day. That's huge for a store open 2.5 years. M-o-M sales grow and grow. It's turned the shopping ctr into a Disneyland.


I don't find their prices so great.


Gold Bitchez.....I pick up pennies

J S Bach's picture

People order everything online these days.  Hell, pretty soon they'll even be shipping highly perishable goods like fresh fish via Fed Ex right to your lazy-ass door.

roddy6667's picture

In China they have that already. A guy on a moped brings it to your door in a Styrofoam cooler with ice packs.

Wulfkind's picture

They seem to be very successful at them and why not, EBT mills. I'm the maintenance mgr. for the center they have a larger one in, 50k Sq. Ft. and they have 2,500+ register rings a day. That's huge for a store open 2.5 years. M-o-M sales grow and grow. It's turned the shopping ctr into a Disneyland.


Wal Mart and EBT = The New Company Store.  Just like in the old days of mining.  You get paid by the mining company only to have to turn around and pay for all your clothes and goods at the mining company store.

Big Corp and Big Gov. = Fascism.

grunk's picture

They should send you to those WalMarts they closed because of "plumbing problems."

motorollin's picture

Yeah, here too in a Portland suburb.

Escrava Isaura's picture




Retail Apocalypse: Empty Shelves And Store Closings


Now imagine if America is to lose its biggest advantage? The dollar as the global reserve currency.

How many stores as we know would be in business while having the cheapest prices in the world?


The answer? None.


Now you’re free to go back to your “isms”.

stocktivity's picture

I'd like to know if the stores are located where that huge blizzard hit a week ago. People were emptying shelves ahead of the storm.

Never One Roach's picture

If the reserve status is lost there would be chaos since the value would plummet by >40%.


Gold, oil, silver, etc would skyrocket.

kiwidor's picture

yeh and watch it doesn't give you chemical burns.


meh. nz is just a dumping ground for toxic shit.


Freddie's picture

Be very careful of any dollar store stuff because it is from China.  I once bought so shampoo or conditioner and it burned my scalp.  Made it china.  Not a bad burn but there was something nasty in it.  The other trick is to ship the crap to Canada and bottle it there. 

Be careful of shampoos, toothpaste, cremes, even soap and lots of other stuff.

WillyGroper's picture

Don't buy any WEN products or you won't have anything to dye. ;D

Crap might as well be labeled Nair.

Jug Jugette's picture

Now all you have to do is start writing like a grown-up.

The Real Tony's picture

The Baltic Dry index and the railways are the two most important ones.

MalteseFalcon's picture

I buy on line, so no problem for me.

The debate of "Clicks" versus "bricks" took place over 15 years ago and guess what?

Zillions of square feet of retail space were subsequently built.



Fuck them. 


mkkby's picture

Article is bullshit.  Walmart closing 269 old stores but (not mentioned) OPENING 240 NEW STORES.  Yawn -- not some catastrophe.

There are WAY TOO MANY stores everywhere that sell the same shit that nobody needs or wants.  Shut em down, please. 

Amazon is the only one with any selection, so I hope the rest die quickly.

WOAR's picture

Opening or laying the groundwork? The folks in D.C. found out real quick that a store being built is not the same as one already in operation.

Don't count chickens before they hatch.

WillyGroper's picture

AMZN model is the Whale-Mart net based power consolidation model.

Yes, they have many items you cannot find in brix n mortar.

No doubt with more to come as things get more scarce.

11b40's picture

I started working retail in college - in the 60's - and been at it in some form or fashion since then.  

The U.S. was over-stored by about 20% as long ago as the mid 80's.  Just look at all the retail consokidation that has hsppened since then.  Think about all the old retail chains that have just vanished.  You would not believe what my old rol-o-dex looked like.  In the 90's, my sales/marketing agency had almost 2500 accounts in the SE.  Today, we have eliminated all our sales reps & closed our showrooms & offices, and now my partnet & I work about 30 accounts from our home offices with the help of 2 part-time secretaries that do projects when we need them.

2008-09 damn near killed us.  We don't just worry about the retail accounts, but also the supplier base we represent.  As middlemen, we bleed if either side bleeds.

There is no question that replenishment orders are smaller and less frequent so far this year, and it is starting to feel a lot like the beginning of 2008.  We had a lot of shipping issues last fall.  Retailers wee hedging & placed orders late.  Vendors were stretched thin, and some shipments I know were delayed as cash flow was preventing timely payments to factories, or factories having difficulty paying materials suppliers.  Further down the supply chain, parts are becoming more difficult as more specialty suppliers struggle to stay alive.  

Just in time delivery can quickly become no delivery if one little key ingredient or supplier in the chain vanishes.


I M DeMan's picture

I notice most stores are carrying alot less of everything this year---sweaters, flannel, etc. They got banged up pretty badly last two years so they tried to brace themsoelves for more of the awesome recovery this year.

Freddie's picture

People rant and rave about how great Amazon is.   A lot of AMZN sucks.  Some prices are not that great plus they sell a lot of fake shit.

I know conservatives who love it and want to starve the beast etc.  Well local stores employ local people for better or worse.  AMZN has robots and USPS mail delivery people.

Also Bezos is not your friend.  The guy who runs Overstock is a much better person and more libertarian.

Bismarckrises's picture

Do not forget PRIME. Where everything that is Prime is about $3-4 more expensive than not Prime and you still pay for that. 

Never One Roach's picture

There's lots of good deals on Amazon but you may have to look around for them. Plus, anything shipped from China whether it's on Amazon, Ali Baba or FleaBay has a high chance of being less then authentic. I personally find Amazon patrols its sellers more but fraud by both sellers and buyers now is pretty rampant all over.


researchfix's picture

But .. but .. but everything is improving and doing just well.

JRobby's picture

E P I C  C O L L A P S E  I N  D E M A N D

3Wishes's picture

Caused by the epic supply of free money only to the rich who then try to gouge the poor for margin. 

Crash Overide's picture

If you're hungry, eat Obamacare.

PTR's picture

The beginning of the end for Amazon. Eternal hope for the greater fool in the investing community.


Don't worry- political connections will save them.  /s

tc06rtw's picture

 …  The owner of  The Washington Post  says  Amazon  has a  great  future!

RadioFlyer's picture

When the power goes out, the old paper products can't be beat!

PTR's picture

And they can keep you warm and cook dinner.

KnuckleDragger-X's picture

The world is changing, so call in the "experts" who got them into this mess and ignore your customers complaints. I can't wait for them to walk off the cliff because they are told it'll fix everything......

KesselRunin12Parsecs's picture

We need more jews in middle management... That'll 'fix' everytrhing because they're smart with money & all that kinda stuff

Abbie Normal's picture

And at the top levels of management too -- that could be why GOOG and FB are doing so much better than AAPL and AMZN.

KesselRunin12Parsecs's picture

No, that would be because GOOG & FB are already owned & run by jews, were brought into existence by NSA & CIA black budgets, & share their data with Mossad, who, in their 'downtime' between' fighting [cough], FORMENTING 'terror', enjoy whacking off to the 'nude selfie' foto your 15 year old daughter uploads of herself in the bathroom mirror standing by the toilet seat.


But go ahead and JUNK ME for this comment & fulfill your role of shooting the messenger.

Zymurguy's picture

Went to buy the family a new stereo tuner to manage all the audio input/output for the house... couldn't find one anywhere.  BestBuy was closing their store by me and their shelves were bare - went to another one and they also had nothing to choose from.  Walmart had nothing worth buying... all the warehouse stores had were sound bars.  I got so fed up I operated on the old tuner, got 'er workin' just find.  Fuk 'em.

813kml's picture

Check out the Chromecast Audio, it can breathe new life into an old tuner by allowing you to stream from your wireless network.

True Blue's picture

You're better off; haven't been happy with a new piece of electronics in a long long while. We will never return to the moon when a damn toaster eludes modern engineering.

I suspect that will be the Chinese Pearl Harbor -attack us one Christmas while we're all too busy extinguishing house fires caused by their shoddy junk.