Retail spending strong after record year of store closures

Retail spending strong after record year of store closures

NEW YORK (AP) — Retailers are riding high after ebullient U.S. consumers shopped at the healthiest pace in more than a decade over the holiday season. But merchants can't afford to rest easy.

None of the pressure on them has eased, and the fight for customers' attention will only intensify. Retailers trying to hold their own against an expanding Amazon will have to keep sprucing up their stores and investing in the quick delivery that shoppers want. Those kinds of moves may bite into their profits, but they'll save money from tax changes.

Store closures, already at a post-recession high, could keep coming. And in a sign of just how critical it is that stores get delivery right, Walmart's Sam's Club says it's converting some of the locations it's closing into e-commerce fulfillment centers.

Several retailers including Target, Kohl's and J.C. Penney reported solid holiday sales gains. Retail sales rose 0.4 percent in December, the Commerce Department said Friday, after a 0.9 percent bump in November.

Fifty retailers filed for bankruptcy last year, including well-known brands like Payless ShoeSource and Toys R Us.

The number of announced store closures came to nearly 7,000, which exceeded the 2008 peak of 6,200. Perkins expects the number of store closures should be similar this year. The most dramatic store pruning will likely come from long-struggling chains like Sears Holdings Corp., which owns Kmart and Sears stores. Analysts are keeping an eye on retailers such as Nine West Holdings, J. Crew and Bon-Ton Stores Inc.

Sections (2):News, Business
Topics (2):Economy, Retail

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