Over 1,000 NYC chain stores have closed this past year, the biggest drop in a decade

December 23, 2020

Photo by Peter Burka on Flickr

More than 1,000 chain stores in New York City have closed over the past year, the largest year-over-year decline in over a decade. According to the Center for an Urban Future’s annual “State of the Chains” report, nearly one out of every seven chain retailers open at this time last year is now closed, due to the coronavirus pandemic coupled with the continued growth of e-commerce. Even Dunkin’, the city’s largest retailer, closed 18 locations in 2020, the first time the coffee chain experienced a decline since CUF began tracking chains 13 years ago.

Courtesy of the Center for an Urban Future

Overall, the number of chain stores declined from 7,948 stores in 2019 to 6,891 stores this year, a decrease of about 13.3 percent. Last year was the second consecutive drop in retail stores, with the number of chains down by 3.7 percent, which was then the largest year-over-year drop.

Chain stores closed in every borough, but Manhattan suffered the most losses, with the number of chains dropping by over 17 percent, with about 2.8 percent of that reported to be temporary closures. Queens experienced the second-largest decline, 11.2 percent, followed by Brooklyn, 11.6 percent with 2.5 percent temporary, the Bronx, 9.9 percent, and Staten Island, down by 8.5 percent.

By ZIP code, Midtown East’s 10022 experienced the largest decline in chain stores, losing 34 since last year. In the East Village/ Union Square neighborhood, 31 chain stores closed, followed by 30 in Brooklyn Heights.

The next six neighborhoods with the biggest declines were all in or around Midtown Manhattan, including Midtown West (28 store closures), Garment District (28 closures), Chelsea (28 closures), Midtown East (26 closures), Flatiron (22 closures), Times Square 10036 (22 closures). For the second year in a row, Hudson Yards claimed the top spot for the number of national retailers by ZIP code, at 163 (down from 191 in 2019).

While online shopping has been the main root of chain closures in the past, this year’s record-breaking closures are a direct result of COVID-19. Sectors biggest hit by pandemic-related shutdowns include fast-casual dining and health club and gym chains, affected by both COVID-19 restrictions and a lack of office workers.

According to the report, Subway closed 30 stores, Le Pain Quotidien closed 14 stores, Pret A Manger closed 16, Au Bon Pain closed seven, Potbelly Sandwich Shop closed five, and Hale & Hearty Soups closed six.

Gyms and fitness studios, which were closed for months and now can operate at a limited capacity, also experienced closures. NY Sports Clubs went from 53 stores to 27, Rumble from six stores to two, and Soul Cycle and Fly Wheel have closed all their locations, temporarily.

Despite the challenges, about 40 chains were still able to open new locations. Popeye’s and T-Mobile both added 11 stores, Nathan’s Famous added eight stores, Paper Source added seven, Chipotle added six, and Sweetgreen added five.

Read the Center for an Urban Future’s full State of the Chains, 2020 report here.


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