Chain stores, too, feel COVID pinch, close some outlets

January 13, 2021 Raanan Geberer
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One of biggest declines is seen in Heights-Downtown-DUMBO

For many years, the accepted wisdom has been that small “mom-and-pop” stores are slowly being forced out of business because of the growth of large chain stores, which landlords prefer because they are guaranteed to pay a high rent.

Now, however, because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic downtown, chain store outlets in New York City themselves are closing. 

While Manhattan had the largest percentage of closures during the past year, Brooklyn had the second-largest decline, decreasing by 11.5 over the past 12 months, according “State of the Chains,” a report by think tank The Center for an Urban Future.DAILY TOP BROOKLYN NEWSNews for those who live, work and play in Brooklyn and beyond

As far as particular Brooklyn neighborhoods are concerned, 11201, which includes Brooklyn Heights, Downtown and DUMBO, has the most national chain stores, but also had the steepest decline in their numbers, at 18 percent. (See for a report on store closures on Montague Street.) 

The Century 21 chain of department stores closed all 13 of its outlets in December. This was its flagship store, in Bay Ridge. Eagle file photo

The Heights-Downtown area was followed in numbers of chain store outlets by 11234, or Flatlands; 11226, East Flatbush and Flatbush; and 11209, Bay Ridge. Chain stores there declined by 13 percent, 2 percent and 15 percent, respectively. (No word on why so few chain stores closed in Flatbush.)

The Brooklyn areas with the fewest chain stores were Fort Hamilton; with two; and Red Hook-Carroll Gardens, with nine. Red Hook lost one of its 10 stores during the past year. One might surmise that Red Hook and Carroll Gardens, with their small, narrow buildings, are not conducive to chain stores, which need a large floor area. As for the Fort Hamilton ZIP code, 11252, it basically includes just the Fort itself. 

Also at the bottom of the list are a few ZIP codes that aren’t found on ZIP code maps and likely cover just one large building or one area of a few blocks.

Hole in the Donut–>

The chain with the biggest number of stores in New York City is Dunkin Donuts, and while it remains strong, it wasn’t exempt from the general trend. It had 18 fewer stores fewer than this time last year.

“ The city’s other big coffee chain, Starbucks, closed even more stores (49). Metro PCS, the city’s second-largest chain retailer, shuttered 134 stores over the past year—a bigger decline than we’ve recorded in any borough since this study began. Meanwhile, Sprint closed all 89 stores, though much of that likely stems from its merger with T-Mobile, which was approved earlier this year,” according to Center for an Urban Future.

Other well-known chains that closed more than 15 retail locations include Duane Reade (-70), GNC (-51), Subway (-30), Modell’s (-43), Baskin-Robbins (-30), NY Sports Club (-26), the report said.  A few retailers, most notably Popeye’s and TMobile, actually grew their number of locations during the past year.

Food Stores, Gyms Hit Hard

Predictably, both because of the on-again, off-again regulations against indoor dining and the decline in the number of office workers eating lunch out, food businesses had some of the biggest store locations.

For example, Subway went from 287 stores to 257, Le Pain Quotidien went from 37 to 23, McDonald’s went from 203 to 198, Burger King went from 104 to 97, and Baskin-Robbins went from 217 stores to 187.

Health clubs also were a victim of strict health regulations that forced them to close for several months., NY Sports Club (-26) and Soul Cycle (-21) both reported significant temporary closures, of 15 and 18 locations, respectively.

While significant number of clothing-store outlets shut down during the past year (for example, Modell’s, a longtime mainstay on the Fulton Mall, closed all of its 43 stores), this was more of a result of the longtime trend of e-commerce making inroads into their business, the Center for an Urban Future said.

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