From RadioShack to Sears and from Staples to Abercrombie & Fitch, the recent retail landscape has been characterized by a wave of mall staples announcing hundreds—sometimes even more than 1,000—store closings.
So what will fill the space of these defunct stores?
Sandeep Mathrani, CEO of mall-focused real estate investment trust General Growth Properties, said retailers from Lululemon to Gap are eyeing these vacancies to house spinoff retail concepts, as they search for ways to grow sales organically.
"In the older days before the recession, there were new malls being constructed," he said. "When the recession hit, all the new development came to a standstill."
Because of this imbalance between supply and demand, the competition is intensifying among retailers trying to gain a foothold in high-performing malls, Mathrani said. Since the industry's trough in third quarter 2010—when total shopping center vacancy rates hit 11.3 percent—they've recovered three percentage points, hitting 8.1 percent in fourth quarter 2013, according to International Council of Shopping Centers data.
At General Growth Properties, the occupancy rate is at an all-time high of 93 percent, which compares to the previous high of 91 percent about 10 years ago, Mathrani said.
"Retailers are healthy again and looking to expand," ICSC spokeman Jesse Tron said.
Click through to see 10 up-and-coming retail concepts.
—By CNBC's Krystina Gustafson
Posted 21 March 2014
Following the explosive growth of Kate Spade, the company is putting a bigger focus on building out its lower-priced brand, Kate Spade Saturday. With price points about 50 percent lower than its namesake brand, Kate Spade Saturday currently has five stores worldwide, including a domestic footprint in New York City, Houston and Los Angeles. It has plans to open two new stores this spring—one in Honolulu, the other in Boston.
In its fourth-quarter earnings call last month, CEO Craig Leavitt said the company will continue to grow its e-commerce business, as well as "continue to test and learn from brick-and-mortar store formats."
"We will continue to invest in marketing and customer acquisition, as we believe very strongly that this brand is a key vehicle for us in the years ahead," Leavitt said.
Formerly known as Loft Lounge, Ann has rebranded its loungewear under the Lou & Grey name.
In its fourth-quarter earnings call earlier this month, the retailer said it will bring the brand to all 540 of its Loft stores, and come this fall, test freestanding stores.
"Looking ahead, we are very excited about the potential for this brand," CEO Kay Krill said on the call.
In February, introduced its new retail concept, called HomeCourt. The concept will be implemented in 25 of the company's stores over the course of the year, though the full list of locations has not yet been named.
Among the store's features is an entrance designed after a players' entry tunnel. As customers enter, they will be greeted by the sound of cheering fans.
Urban Outfitters entered the athletic apparel race in March, opening five stores for its new Without Walls concept. The retailer has plans to open five more stores through the fall, putting its initial footprint on markets from New York City to Seattle, Wash.
Also in the activewear market, Gap's growing Athleta brand is giving Lululemon a run for its money. But the company's Intermix stores—which it acquired in 2013—also provide a runway for the company's expansion.
Gap opened two Intermix stores in the fourth quarter, bringing its count up to 37.
"Intermix has a distinctive position in this growing market with clear competitive advantage," Gap CEO Glenn Murphy said at the time of the acquisition.
As for Athleta, Gap opened 30 stores with this brand last year, and it has plans for 30 more this year.
With 33 locations across the U.S. and Canada, Lululemon's Ivivva brand is aimed at young girls with a focus on fitness. The company has plans to open "several" more stores and showrooms—which offer a more limited assortment of core product—across the U.S. in the next few months, a spokesperson said.
Upcoming store openings include locations in Michigan, New Jersey and New York, all coming this spring. The company is also preparing for further growth in 2015.
COS, which offers fashions at a slightly higher price than its fast-fashion counterpart H&M, is currently available in 20 countries. But General Growth Properties CEO Sandeep Mathrani said the retailer is looking at space to make its entry into the U.S.
Swedish retailer H&M has said its growth target is to increase its store count by 10 to 15 percent a year. This plan includes the expansion of its secondary stores, such as COS.
Another H&M-owned line, & Other Stories, is also looking to expand into the U.S., Mathrani said. The brand, which launched in 2013, currently has only eight stores, all located in Europe. The brand has plans to open more stores in Europe, beginning in Belgium and Netherlands, but said it has no concrete U.S. plans to share.
Although sales at Aéropostale have struggled, its Bethany Mota collection has achieved "very high sales" since launching in December, the company said in its recent earnings call.
The teen retailer told CNBC it hopes to boost sales of the label by approximately $50 million in 2014, from $10 million in 2013. The company hasn't disclosed specific expansion plans, aside from saying Bethany Mota will enter new categories and be featured in stores year-round.
Aéropostale has said it plans to use its sub-brands to change its brand perception more rapidly, as it works to turn around its performance.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the increase in Bethany Mota sales.
Inditex, parent company to fast-fashion retailer Zara, has plans to expand its higher-end Massimo Dutti concept, Mathrani said. Currently, the brand's only U.S. locations are in Washington, D.C., and New York City.