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10 retailers defying wave of store closings

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10 retailers opening more stores

Singer John Legend and President of North America H&M, Daniel Kulle attend the H&M Herald Square Flagship Store Grand Opening at H&M Herald Square on May 20, 2015 in New York City.
Daniel Zuchnik | WireImage | Getty Images

The casualties are far from over.

Though 2016 has yet to see the severity of high-profile bankruptcies that struck during the first quarter last year, a slew of retailers are nonetheless on track to close a large chunk of their store fleets.

From The Sports Authority, which is in the midst of disposing of 140 locations as part of its Chapter 11 restructuring, to Abercrombie & Fitch, which has closed roughly 50 to 60 stores annually for the past several years and has more it its crosshairs, many retail chains are becoming decidedly smaller.

Yet these examples don't tell the whole story. Though massive store closings can leave temporary vacancies at malls and other shopping properties — or in the case of dying malls, leave them permanently dark — there is often a list of budding retailers waiting in the wings.

According to the International Council of Shopping Centers, an industry trade organization, shopping center occupancy rates reached 93.1 percent at the end of the fourth quarter — the highest year-end level in eight years. These metrics have been aided by a limited amount of new retail space coming to market.

"The industry has done a good job of managing itself through a very challenging macro [environment]," said Tom McGee, CEO of the International Council of Shopping Centers trade organization. "It's a healthy industry right now."

To see a list of retailers that are on the growth track, click ahead.

—By CNBC's Krystina Gustafson
Posted 1 April 2016

Ulta

An ULTA Beauty store in West Hills, California.
Frazer Harrison | CNBC

Ulta's fourth-quarter comparable sales gain was the envy of nearly every retailer in the space, rising more than 12 percent during the period. But the beauty chain isn't limiting its growth to existing stores.

After opening 100 new shops during 2015, the company once again plans to cut the ribbon on 100 additional locations this fiscal year. It's part of Ulta's ultimate plan to expand from 874 to 1,200 stores, though CEO Mary Dillon recently said the company is reevaluating that target.

TJX

A T.J. Maxx store in Cincinnati
Ty Wright | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Never mind that TJX, parent company of TJ Maxx, Marshalls and HomeGoods, already operates three times as many domestic stores as Macy's. That isn't stopping the off-price leader from targeting an additional 1,400 shops in North America alone.

"'Marmaxx' is nearly a $20 billion business and T.J. Maxx and Marshalls each have more than 1,000 stores," CEO Ernie Herrman told analysts on the company's latest earnings call. "Yet we are confident meaningful opportunity remains to continue growing both chains."


Dollar General

A shopper loads purchases into his vehicle outside a Dollar General Corp. store in Princeton, Illinois.
Daniel Acker | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Like TJX, Dollar General is not letting an already robust footprint get in the way of expansion. Though the dollar store heavyweight already operates nearly 12,500 stores, management recently outlined plans to open 900 new locations this fiscal year, followed by an additional 1,000 in 2017. Part of this aggressive rollout will stem from the company's expansion into urban markets.

Five Below

Source: Five Below

With consumers hungry for a bargain, Dollar General will not be uncontested in the discount space. Relative newcomer Five Below, which was founded in 2002, operates a fraction the number of locations as Dollar General, at roughly 430. Yet the retailer, which sells everything for $5 or less, will open 85 new stores this year, after cutting the ribbon on 70 locations in 2015.

Dick's

A Dick's Sporting Goods store in West Nyack, New York
Craig Warga | Bloomberg | Getty Images

While The Sports Authority puts at least 140 stores on the chopping block, competitor Dick's Sporting Goods is expanding its footprint. With roughly 640 namesake locations in operation at the end of January, the company said that it plans to open an additional 36 Dick's stores in 2016.

On a conference call with investors last month, CEO Ed Stack added that if it decides to take over any of Sports Authority's leases, they would be on top of the 36 stores it has currently mapped out.

Lululemon

Shoppers walking into a Lululemon store
Scott Mlyn | CNBC

With its sheer pants controversy in the rearview mirror, Lululemon's turnaround is well under way. The latest step forward for the high-end yoga outfitter came during the fourth quarter, when it reported comparable-sales growth of 11 percent.

After opening 61 stores between its namesake and children's ivivva concepts last year, CEO Laurent Potdevin said earlier this week that the company plans to cut the ribbon on another 11 stores this year.

Restoration Hardware

Tony Avelar | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Despite growing comparable revenue by 11 percent last year, Restoration Hardware has recently been targeted for its inability to keep up with demand at its RH Modern label. Yet that hasn't stopped the retailer from moving forward with plans to rework the makeup of its store fleet.

Over the next seven to 10 years, the luxury furnishings store expects to generate "meaningful growth" by transforming its 7,500-square-foot legacy locations into 45,000- to 60,000-square foot megastores. CEO Gary Friedman told analysts earlier this week that the goal is to double, triple, or quadruple sales in these locations.

In the company's latest annual report, Restoration Hardware outlined the opportunity to operate 60 to 70 of these stores in the United States and Canada, up from its current four.

Francesca's

A pedestrian walks by a Francesca's store in New York.
Scott Mlyn | CNBC

Contrary to its small-shop feel, boutique chain Francesca's has plans for big growth. After cutting the ribbon on 83 stores in fiscal 2015, the retailer recently outlined its intentions to open up to 60 more this year. As of last week, it operated a total 626 boutiques.

H&M

Scott Mlyn | CNBC

Talk about an aggressive target. With more than 3,900 stores across six continents already in operation — including the 413 it opened last year — Swedish fast-fashion giant H&M has its sights set on another 425 shops this year.

Expansion will not be limited to its namesake label, however; H&M is also plotting growth across its secondary brands, which include & Other Stories and COS. Though H&M opened 59 stores in the U.S. last year, it ended November with just 415 locations here across its brands. That's less than half the number of locations Macy's operates across its portfolio.

Nordstrom Rack

Nordstrom Rack in downtown Seattle
Getty Images

Nordstrom's off-price locations, which already outnumber its traditional U.S. department stores, could grow by another 20 shops during fiscal 2016. The openings come as Nordstrom management moves closer toward its goal of operating 300 Racks by 2020. As of January 30, Nordstrom operated 118 full-line stores, and 194 Rack shops.

Nordstrom is far from the only department store looking to the off-price arena for growth. Kohl's, Macy's, Bloomingdale's and Lord & Taylor also have plans to expand their presence in this discount space.