Openings, Closings, & Other Key Industry Highlights

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January 25, 2023


At a recent conference, Whole Foods CEO Jason Buechel announced plans to escalate the pace of new store growth and expand to more global markets. The Company is planning to eventually open 30 or more stores a year, and while it currently has approximately 50 new locations in development, he would like to up the number to 100. In 2022, the chain opened 11 stores and closed six. Currently, Whole Foods operates 534 stores in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. This comes at a time where Amazon’s Amazon Fresh banner has suspended store growth as well as pending openings seemingly related to poor performance. 

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Amazon is allowing a major office lease to expire in Seattle, WA in April, which is unrelated to the previously announced layoff of 18,000 workers (including 2,300 at its Puget Sound headquarters). Instead, it is a response to the ongoing shift to remote and hybrid work. About 2,000 employees will move from the Port 99 on Eighth Avenue offices to the Puget Sound headquarters. 

In other news, Amazon Web Services (AWS) plans to invest $35 billion by 2040 to establish multiple data center campuses across Virginia. The Company is evaluating locations across Virginia and will announce site decisions at a later date. The new campuses will combine expandable cloud capacity. Amazon established its first AWS data centers and operations facilities in Virginia in 2006, and in 2018 announced its second headquarters will be located in Arlington, VA.


Cineworld, DIP filed a motion seeking to reject 39 additional unexpired leases. In total, the Debtors estimate that rejecting the leases will save the estate approximately $22 million annually.

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Bed Bath & Beyond received a warning from Nasdaq that it has not yet filed with the SEC its Form 10-Q quarterly report for the period ended November 26, 2022. The Company said it continues to work to finalize its quarterly report and plans to do so “as promptly as possible.” It has 60 calendar days from the notice date to submit a plan to regain compliance. As we have been reporting, Bed Bath & Beyond recently issued 3Q22 results, which included a 32% decline in comps and a continued plummet of EBITDA to negative $225 million. It also concluded that “there is substantial doubt about the Company’s ability to continue as a going concern,” and that it is currently considering all strategic alternatives, including “obtaining relief under the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.” In related news, published reports say the Company has hired law firm Cole Schotz as it prepares for a potential bankruptcy filing. It has also been working with advisors, including Kirkland & Ellis, and has hired consulting firm AlixPartners.

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Walmart is launching its new Walmart Business website, which offers an assortment of more than 100,000 items tailored to nonprofits and small to medium businesses (SMBs). The Company has identified key product categories for this program, including office supplies and furniture, food and beverage, restroom, electronics, classroom, and facility needs. Walmart Business groups various related items together, offers multi-user accounts, and a tax-exemption program. Membership costs $98 per year and includes free shipping with no minimums, free store pickup with a $35 minimum order, 2% rewards on orders of $250 or more, and 5% savings on eligible subscription items.


Party City, DIP filed for Chapter 11 with a goal of reorganizing to reduce lease payments and deleverage its balance sheet. The Court authorized the Debtors to: (i) access a $150 million term loan DIP Facility, of which $75 million is available immediately, and the balance will become available upon entry of a final order, and (ii) reject 28 unexpired leases for retail stores that have been closed and vacated prior to the Petition Date. Additionally, the Debtors, with their real estate advisors, A&G Realty Partners, LLC remain in active negotiations with certain landlords to potentially modify existing lease terms. Subsidiaries outside of the US, the Party City franchise stores, and the Anagram business are not part of the filing. The Chapter 11 proceedings are expected to be completed in 2Q23.

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Lowes Foods is planning to add five new locations in the Carolinas. The first, scheduled to open later this year, will be in Pittsboro, NC, followed by openings in Concord and Kannapolis, NC and Indian Land and Aiken, SC. Lowes, which operates 82 grocery stores, opened a new, smaller concept unit in 2022 in Huntersville, NC. The 25,000 square-foot store includes special features such as an in-house bread bakery and a department called “Chicken Kitchen.”

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This week, ALDI is opening a new store in Chicago, IL, replacing an older location in the city. In total, the grocer operates 35 stores in the Chicago metro area, and there are plans to add another unit later this year on the ground floor of a senior living development in the Six Corners neighborhood. Earlier this month, ALDI opened two new stores in Union and Columbia, MO and two more in Starkville and McComb, MS. There are also plans to add a new location in Danvers, MA by the end of January. ALDI currently has 2,278 stores in the U.S.

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Wakefern launched a new pilot convenience store that uses artificial intelligence-based technology for autonomous check out. The store, named the Pantry, is located on the Company’s Edison, NJ campus and is only open to Wakefern associates as the new format is tested. 


Hudson’s Bay is bringing back its discount Zellers concept, adding store-within-store sections (8,000 – 10,000 square feet) in 25 stores across Canada, while at the same time launching an e-commerce site in 2023. Management didn’t disclose exactly when the first store will open but indicated more may follow. The Zellers brand disappeared from Canada after Target launched its ill-fated expansion north of the border, when it occupied about 220 Zellers in 2011; the last Zellers locations closed in 2013. HBC is hoping to tap into consumers' sense of nostalgia in reviving the brand and had tested a few pop-up shops during the pandemic. However, we question whether bringing back the failed banner will turn into sustained foot traffic for Bay locations. The Company is also involved in a lawsuit with the Moniz family, which claims it has the rights to open stores under the Zellers name.

In other news, HBC has bid for a gaming license to install a high-end casino on the top three floors of the Saks Fifth Avenue flagship store in Manhattan, NY. The casino would cover 200,000 square feet that is currently occupied by a restaurant, a discounted merchandise section, and the SaksWorks co-working venture. Casinos were first authorized in New York State in April 2022, and there are three available licenses for which companies are competing. Winners are slated to be announced later this year. 

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H&M unveiled “Chapter Two” of its experimental 7,000 square-foot store in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY, which opened in November 2022. Chapter Two is dedicated to the Company’s athletic brand, H&M Move, including “Move Studio” which offers fitness classes daily between January 19 and February 22. Chapter Two replaces Chapter One, which focused on H&M’s holiday campaign. The experimental store will remain open through January 2024. 


Southeastern Grocers opened a standalone liquor store under its Fresco y Más banner in Miami, FL on January 18. The Company debuted its first store dedicated to alcohol in Summer 2021. Other grocers investing in standalone liquor stores include Food Lion and Hy-Vee, which announced plans to roll out a new format in mid-2021 called Wall to Wall Wine and Spirits in Nebraska and Iowa. In certain states, legal restrictions prevent grocers from selling liquor.


Conn's HomePlus expanded its presence in Florida with the opening of a new 30,000 square-foot location in Jacksonville. It is the Company’s 15th unit in Florida and brings its total store count to 167 across 15 states in the Southeast and southern U.S. The map below features recent store openings.

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Kum & Go has expanded to Michigan, the 13th state for the Company. The store, located in the Grand Rapids area, is the first of several openings in the region; the second is set to open later this week and two more units are expected in the next few months. Grand Rapids is the second of Kum & Go’s new market ventures. The Company opened in Salt Lake City in December 2022 and will be entering Boise, ID later this year, and Detroit, MI in 2024.


Chili’s, owned by Brinker International, closed its pilot delivery-and-carryout-only store after a two-month trial. The 1,600 square-foot restaurant, located near the Southern Methodist University campus in Dallas, TX, was about one-third the size of a typical Chili’s restaurant (5,500 square feet). The Company is instead focusing on upgrading its kitchens to provide faster table service, while working on refining the off-premise experience, which contributes about a third of the Company’s annual sales. 


Ahold Delhaize’s Giant Food opened a 56,000 square-foot store in Crofton, MD, replacing an older location about 15 miles away, which closed the day before the new store opened. The new location has an expanded gourmet cheese department, fresh-made sushi and pizza, Starbucks café, and a full-service pharmacy. The store will offer pickup and delivery through the Giant Food app and website. Giant operates 165 supermarkets in Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and Washington D.C. 


Sprouts Farmers Market is opening a 23,000 square-foot store in Nashville, TN, its second in Nashville and seventh in the state. Sprouts operates about 380 stores in 23 states. It most recently opened two stores in November (San Antonio, TX and Rancho Cordova, CA), in addition to two opened in October 2022. 

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Save-A-Lot plans to close two distribution centers, one in Coxsackie, NY on February 25, and the other in St. Johns, MI on March 11. Stores served by the two DCs will be supplied by other nearby distribution centers. Last year, the Company completed its transition to a wholesale business model after selling more than 300 corporate-owned locations; it retained 18 stores in the St. Louis, MO area as a test market for new innovations and programs. 


Fastenal reported 4Q22 sales increased 10.7% to $1.70 billion. The Company attributed the growth to continued demand in markets tied to industrial capital goods and commodities, which more than offset softer markets tied to consumer goods and relatively lower growth in construction. Price increases to mitigate inflation added 350 to 380 bps to sales. Gross margin declined 120 bps to 45.3% on growth from Onsite customers, national account customers, and non-faster products, all of which tend to have a lower gross margin; the Company also attributed the decline to slower demand and greater product availability in the marketplace due to supply chain normalization. Operating income increased 10.7% to $333 million, and operating margin was unchanged at 19.6%. The Company signed 62 new Onsite locations, bringing its total count to 1,623. 


J. Crew launched a new resale program that sells used styles online and vintage apparel in select J. Crew stores. Part of the program includes the debut of the J. Crew Always banner where pre-owned items can be purchased either on the Company’s website or via the e-commerce consignment site ThredUp. Customers can also send gently worn J. Crew items to ThredUp in exchange for shopping credit. Additionally, under the program, some of J.Crew’s vintage styles from the 1980s and '90s will be available exclusively at two of the brand’s locations in New York City. The Company first entered the resale sector in 2021 when it partnered with ThredUp to create the Madewell Forever banner, which encourages consumers to recycle all of their old clothing by offering discounts and credits on items sent in that are deemed eligible.


Lowe’s is debuting an in-store kids' birthday party program at 10 locations across the country. Based on its longstanding, monthly kids' workshops, the Company is now offering “Build a Birthday” packages for kids ages five and up, where they can invite as many as 20 guests to make projects and have pizza, drinks and dessert included. The starting price for the basic package is $349, and the program is available Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.

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