Chain stores decline in every borough

Retail retreat accelerates as citywide total drops for second straight year

(Credit: iStock)
The city saw a net loss of 304 chain-store locations in the past year (Credit: iStock)

For the second time in a row, New York City will end the year with fewer national chain stores than it started with.

According to the Center for an Urban Future’s latest State of the Chains report, the city saw a net loss of 304 chain-store locations in the past year, reducing the total to 7,832. Since the Center began publishing the annual study in 2008, the number has only declined twice — last year and this year.

While Manhattan was the only borough to see a decrease in chain store locations in 2018, the malaise has now spread to all five boroughs. Queens led the decline with a 4.9 percent drop. Citywide, the percentage decrease was 3.7 percent, versus a modest 0.7 percent in 2018.

Malls remain a stronghold of chain retail in the city, and the opening of Hudson Yards made 10001 (which includes the Garment District and Koreatown) New York’s most chain-heavy ZIP code with 183 stores, surpassing the Staten Island Mall area.

The Queens Center Mall’s 11373 and the Bay Plaza Shopping Center’s 10475 in the Bronx were the ZIP codes with the most national chains in their respective boroughs. Less mall-centric retail hotbeds included the East Village (10003) and Brooklyn Heights (11201).

Mass closures played a part in the decline, as Payless Shoes shuttered all 71 New York stores after filing for bankruptcy and Petland Discounts closed its 60 stores following the death of the company’s founder.

By category, coffee and tea shops were the best-performing types of retail chain in 2019, growing their footprints by 4 and 9 percent, respectively. On the other hand, pet supplies and shoe stores took massive hits from the Petland and Payless closures, shrinking by a respective 69 and 41 percent.

These are the 10 largest national retail chains in New York City at the end of 2019:

(Note: CUF defines a national retailer as one that has at least two locations within the five boroughs, and at least one outside the city.)

1) Dunkin’ Donuts, 636 stores (-12 from 2018)
The coffee chain has been at the top of this ranking every year since 2008 and is the most widespread chain in Queens with 194 stores and Staten Island with 36. Dunkin’ continues to trail Starbucks in Manhattan, though it has bulked up its presence in the borough by opening eight stores there in 2019.

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2) MetroPCS, 468 stores (-3)
The cellular service provider was rebranded as Metro by T-Mobile last year (the companies merged in 2013), but retains a distinct brand presence. Metro is the top retail chain in Brooklyn (159 stores) and the Bronx (106), and opened 12 stores in those boroughs in 2019. The gains were offset by 15 closures in Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island.

3) Starbucks, 351 stores (+24)
The coffee chain, still the number one retail chain in Manhattan by a wide margin, closed one store in that borough in 2019 while opening 11 in Queens, seven in Brooklyn, four in Staten Island and three in the Bronx.

4) Duane Reade/Walgreens, 317 stores (+54)
The pharmacy, acquired by Walgreens in 2010, saw the most dramatic expansion among chain retailers in 2019, increasing its footprint in the city by more than 20 percent. The growth was concentrated in Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx, while Manhattan and Staten Island saw no change. But RiteAid, which Walgreens acquired in 2018, had 58 store closures this year, dropping it out of the top 10.

5) Subway, 287 stores (-43)
The nation’s largest fast-food chain has seen its New York footprint shrink by more than a third since 2015, when it was the second-largest retail chain in the city with 445 locations. The company has begun taking measures to slow the rate of closures, instating procedures to encourage franchisees to find someone else to run their restaurants if they decline to renew their five-year leases.

6) T-Mobile, 245 stores (-7)
The cellular service provider has its strongest presence in Queens, where it has 76 locations following four closures in the borough. Though the number of locations declined in 2019, T-Mobile still has nine more in the city now than two years ago. Cell phone services was the city’s fastest-growing retail sector in 2018.

7) Baskin-Robbins, 217 stores (-10)
The city’s largest ice cream chain closed four stores each in Brooklyn and Queens and one each in the Bronx and Manhattan. The rest of the ice cream retail sector saw modest gains, with Carvel opening two locations for a total of 54 and Häagen-Dazs added one for a total of 16.

8) McDonald’s, 203 stores (-4)
The fast-food giant fell by two locations each in Manhattan and Queens, continuing a four-year decline during which its city footprint shrunk by 30 stores. Meanwhile, other traditional fast-food chains gained, with Taco Bell adding eight stores and Chick-fil-a and Popeye’s adding six each.

9) CVS/Pharmacy, 170 stores (+12)
The pharmacy chain added 10 locations in Manhattan, and has now grown by 33 since 2015. CVS remains the largest pharmacy chain in Staten Island, where it lost one location this year. It is second to Duane Reade/Walgreens in the other boroughs.

10) 7-Eleven, 141 stores (no change)
The convenience-store chain saw no change in its New York footprint over the past year and has just four more stores now than it did in 2015. The borough with the most 7-Elevens is Queens, and Queens and Staten Island are the only two boroughs where the chain ranks among the 10 largest retailers.