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After a rough year, retailers — including those in San Antonio — may face an even tougher 2021


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Due to COVID-19, last year was a punishing time for retailers, including many in San Antonio. But 2021 may even worse, at least one industry analyst warns.

Last year, industry observers expected 20,000 stores to close amid the pandemic and its economic fallout, but only 8,800 actually did, according to Frost Bank Portfolio Manager Tom Bergeron. That number was actually fewer than the 10,000 that closed 2019.

But as retailers continue to struggle, Bergeron expects 10,000 more to shut their doors in 2021 due to financial difficulties. However, dollar store and high-end retailers may not need to worry.

"Brands in the middle are going to get hit the hardest," Bergeron said. "The sector decline will continue."

The pandemic has been rough on San Antonio businesses such as Pinky's Boutique, a women's clothing and accessories store north of downtown. 

"A lot of our customers are not getting out and shopping, or they're understandably cautious," Pinky's owner Jill Golden said. "Customers feel they don't have anywhere to go, so the need has kind of dwindled."

Feliz Modern, which operates two gift stores in the Alamo City, also struggled with in-store sales following last spring's stay-at-home order. However, it did see a rise in online purchases.

"We were shut down for a little over a month, and then we slowly reopened and brought more employees back as we could," Feliz Modern co-owner Ginger Diaz said. "In 2019, our online sales were 10% of our business. In 2020, they were 30-35% of our business."

Bergeron said the ability for retailers to implement quality e-commerce platforms is crucial at a time when consumers expect to shop from home. While that's been the case for several years, the pandemic has made online even more essential.

"What really hurt some retailers was their inability to have a viable online channel," he said. “Even though online business for many retailers increased dramatically in 2020, it was nowhere near able to offset the drop-off of in-store sales.”

Prior to COVID-19, e-commerce made up 17% of retail sales, according to Bergeron. Fueled by the pandemic-inspired surge in at-home shopping, that total increased to 24% last year.

Despite the ongoing retail slump, Bergeron predicts 2021 could end strong, once more people receive the COVID-19 vaccine and feel safer comfortable returning to in-store shopping.

Here's a list of recent store closures in the San Antonio area:

1. Stein Mart

In late 2020, Jacksonville, Florida-based retailer Stein Mart filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization and liquidated all 280-plus U.S. locations. Four of those were located in San Antonio.

2. Macy's

In early 2021, Macy’s announced a range of store closures including two in San Antonio at Rolling Oaks Mall and The Shops at Rivercenter. Following these closures, the city will have four Macy's stores remaining.

3. Stage Stores

Houston-based Stage Stores, owner of several department store brands, closed all of its Bealls locations, including five in San Antonio.

4. Sears

Over the past few years, Sears has closed hundreds of stores due to its ongoing financial struggles. After finally liquidating its last San Antonio store in August 2020, the company now operates fewer than 100 locations nationwide.

5. Pier 1 Imports

Furniture and decor retailer Pier 1 Imports filed for bankruptcy in February 2020, eventually closing all 950 stores, including three in San Antonio. It's now an online-only retailer.

6. Tuesday Morning

Last May, Fort Worth-based Tuesday Morning announced it would close 230 of its 770 stores nationwide, including one in San Antonio's Village at Stone Oak shopping center. The company still operates seven other stores locally.

7. GNC

Health and nutrition retailer GNC filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in June 2020 and closed stores nationwide, including locations at San Antonio's Ingram Park Mall and The Shops at Rivercenter and one on Potranco Road.

8. Francesca's

Houston-based women's clothing retailer Francesca's announced the closures of more than 100 stores in December 2020, including one at Rolling Oaks Mall. Three other area locations remain open.

9. Texas Western Warehouse

Texas Western Warehouse is now liquidating all locations, including three in San Antonio, according to local media reports.

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