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Retail store closures 'to sharply accelerate going forward': UBS research

Bed Bath & Beyond's (BBBY) bankruptcy filing on Sunday likely foreshadows other retail busts in the years ahead.

New research out of investment bank UBS underscores the implications of the costs related to operating retail stores, such as leases in top malls and hourly worker wages.

UBS retail analyst Michael Lasser estimates that 50,000 retail stores will close out of the current base of 940,000 stores in the United States by 2027, excluding gas and food service stations.

"While there was a pause on store closures over the last few years, we believe this activity is set to sharply accelerate moving forward," Lasser stated.

A Bed Bath & Beyond retail store in Elmsford, Westchester County, New York State on September 2, 2022.
A Bed Bath & Beyond retail store in Elmsford, Westchester County, New York State on September 2, 2022. (zz/STRF/STAR MAX/IPx)

The retail sectors that will see the most closures, based on Lasser's work, includes clothing accessories and consumer electronics stores at an estimated 23,000 combined.

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Lasser pointed to several key drivers for the looming closures:

  • A slowdown in consumer spending

  • A reduction of credit availability

  • The rising penetration of e-commerce shopping

  • Higher costs to operate retail stores

A decade removed from the demises of once-dominant retail chains Sports Authority, Circuit City, and Linens N' Things — and more recently Sears and Kmart — the age of online shopping is continuing to pressure retailers with too many physical stores open.

A Sears department store in West Covina, California that is due for closure after its parent company announced another 96 Sears and L-Mart stores will be closed by the end of the year, on November 09, 2019. - Only 182 Sears and Kmart stores will be left across the country following these closures. (Photo by Mark RALSTON / AFP) (Photo by MARK RALSTON/AFP via Getty Images)
A Sears department store in West Covina, California on November 09, 2019. (Photo by Mark RALSTON / AFP) (MARK RALSTON via Getty Images)

At the same time, the veteran analyst sees the store closure wave as an "investable" theme.

As weaker retail chains such as Bed Bath & Beyond vanish from the landscape, market share will further shift to strong national players.

Lasser calculates that if 50,000 stores close over the next five years and that the average sales per store is $5.7 million, it would translate to $285 billion of retail sales "up for grabs." Assuming that 26% of these sales go online, it would suggest large national chains like Walmart (WMT), Home Depot (HD), and Costco (COST) have the potential to haul in $210 billion in sales, Lasser believes.

"Well capitalized, efficient, market share taking retailers will be fine," retail expert and J Rogers Kniffen WorldWide CEO Jan Kniffen told Yahoo Finance. "Poorly capitalized retailers who don't matter anymore, like Bed Bath & Beyond, are in trouble."

Bed Bath & Beyond's bust will lead to the closure of 360 of its namesake banners and 120 devoted to buybuy BABY.

Brian Sozzi is Yahoo Finance's Executive Editor. Follow Sozzi on Twitter @BrianSozzi and on LinkedIn. Tips on deals, mergers, activist situations or anything else? Email brian.sozzi@yahoofinance.com

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