Putting the Brakes On


For the first time since 2001, another recession year, the

In 2007, the 25 leading retailers opened 4,511 new stores. In 2008, plans call for opening 3,733. The difference of 778 stores translates to a 17% decline.

New square footage brought to market followed along, falling from 143 million new sq. ft. last year to an estimated 126 million sq. ft. this year, a decline of approximately 12%.

Capital spending fell also, from approximately $42.1 billion in 2007 to $35.9 billion in the estimates for 2008, a 15% decline.

The slowdown in expansion affected nearly the entire retail industry. Discount stores went from 1,632 new stores in 2007 to 1,192 stores in 2008.

The drug store category was not immune to the slowdown, with 772 new stores estimated to open in 2008 compared to 834 last year. CVS opened 186 stores in 2008 and 275 in 2007. Walgreens was poised to end 2008 with 550 new stores, compared to 501 last year. New York City regional chain Duane Reade opened 15 stores in 2008, compared to 10 in 2007. Rite Aid followed the pattern of the other categories, cutting its new-store openings virtually in half.

Only the supermarket category beat the trend, opening 555 compared to 424 in 2007. Aldi went from 50 new stores in 2007 to 100 stores this year. Kroger beat last year’s total of 71, with 80 new stores this year. Publix opened 70 stores this year, compared to 44 in 2007. Safeway opened 20 new stores this year compared to 13 last year. Supervalu’s total went up to 75 compared to 27 last year. Wal-Mart’s Neighborhood Markets added 23 stores this year, vs. 20 in 2007.

But that’s it. Beyond the stores that sell necessities—grocery stores and drug stores—and the stores that sell at sharp discounts, there are no bright spots.

The Home Depot and Lowe’s together opened 161 new stores this year, compared to 263 in 2007. Specialty hard line stores, such as AutoZone, Hibbett Sporting Goods, Michaels and seven others, dropped from 1,100 new stores last year to 961 new stores this year.

The biggest loser: the specialty apparel category, which in our survey included Abercrombie & Fitch, Brown Shoe, Charming Shoppes, Chico’s and six others. The nine retailers in the category opened a total of just 744 stores this year. Last year, they opened 1,159 stores.

The same pattern holds true for capital spending.

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