16 American Retail Chains That Used to Dominate Shopping Malls But Are Now Closing Stores

At their peak, these retailers had millions of customers and thousands of stores nationwide but have since declined. The rise of online competitors, the Great Recession, and the COVID-19 pandemic saw traditional retailers file for bankruptcy and close stores. Here are 16 American retail chains that used to dominate but have now closed their stores. 

Toys “R” Us 

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Toys “R” Us was a leading toy retailer in America for decades following its founding in 1948. However, the rise of online retailers, notably Amazon, and its significant debt load led it to file for bankruptcy in 2017 and 2018, and by 2021, all its stores in America had closed. However, in 2021, it announced it would open over 400 stores within Macy’s. It has over 450 shops in Macy’s and two flagship stores today. 


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Sears was once a dominant chain of department stores operating nationwide, but today, just 11 stores are open. Investopedia explains that Sears Holdings “filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Oct. 15, 2018,” and that store closures and deals couldn’t keep it afloat. 


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By 1999, RadioShack had evolved from a small amateur radio mail-order business in Boston to a major electronics chain with over 8,000 stores worldwide. It began to decline in the 21st century and eventually filed for bankruptcy in early 2015 after years of diminished revenue, management crises, and poor worker relations. Today, it primarily operates online, but around 500 independently owned stores are still operating. 


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Borders was a hugely popular bookstore chain that operated 511 superstores nationwide in 2010. However, it filed for bankruptcy the following year and closed all its stores after failing to transition into the digital age, leaving it unable to compete with its competitors. 


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Blockbuster was synonymous with home entertainment in America during its peak in the 1980s and 1990s. In the 21st century, it has struggled to compete with the rise of streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime, and today, only one of its stores still operates. 

Sports Authority 

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Sports Authority was a key player in the sports retail sector, operating 463 stores in America and Puerto Rico at its peak. However, it fell victim to the retail apocalypse and filed for bankruptcy in 2016, closing all its stores. 

Circuit City 

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This consumer retail company, founded in 1949, grew to operate stores nationwide and pioneer the electronic superstore format in the 1970s. However, it struggled during the Great Recession and eventually filed for bankruptcy in 2009. 


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JCPenney, a department store established in 1902, offers a broad range of consumer goods and has been hugely successful for decades. In 1973, it operated over 2,000 locations nationwide but has struggled in recent years. Slow to adapt to consumer habits moving online and critically wounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, it filed for bankruptcy in 2020. CNBC reported last August that the company “plans to spend more than $1 billion by the end of 2024” to revive its fortunes. 

Abercrombie & Fitch 

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Abercrombie & Fitch evolved from an outfitter for elite outdoorsmen in the 1890s into a teen clothing staple in recent decades. Shifting consumer tastes and the emergence of new competitors over the past decade took it by surprise, reducing its revenue and forcing it to close hundreds of stores. 

The Limited 

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The Limited was hugely influential in women’s fashion in the 1980s and 1990s. However, market saturation and shifting fashion practices led to its decline, and it closed its stores in 2018. It has since transitioned to online-only sales. 


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Kmart was once a retail powerhouse similar to today’s Walmart but began to decline when it failed to adapt to the sudden rise of online commerce platforms like Amazon. NBC New York reported that in the 1990s, “95% of Americans lived within 15 minutes of a Kmart,” but today, it only has 12 stores in America. 

Payless ShoeSource 

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Payless ShoeSource was founded in 1956 and has been a successful international discount footwear chain for decades. However, in 2017, it filed for bankruptcy after struggling with consumer preferences shifting to online retailers. It again filed in 2019 and closed all 2,100 stores. 


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Gymboree was a successful children’s apparel chain with hundreds of stores across America. It struggled in the 2010s, filing for bankruptcy twice and closing all its stores. Today, it is a sub-brand of The Children’s Place. 


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Macy’s has been a fixture of American life for over a century and is well-known for its annual Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City since 1924. However, it recently announced plans to close nearly a third of its stores. CNN reports that “retail analyst Neil Saunders of GlobalData” believes the decline can be linked to its management’s inaction on updating “their offerings to compete with new rivals over the years.”


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Dalton Bookseller was a mall-based bookstore founded in 1966 and was once America’s largest retailer of hardcover books, with a peak of 779 stores. Its last 50 stores were liquidated in 2010, but it was recently revived in a rebranded Barnes & Noble location. 

American Apparel 

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Founded in 1989, American Apparel was known for its controversial, suggestive advertising and operated over 250 stores at its peak. However, the backlash against its ads, the alleged misconduct of its founder, and a fall in sales have seen it decline in recent years. 

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