• Stores are continuing to close at a record pace around the US.
  • Some retailers are choosing to let leases expire instead of closing stores, and that number is not accounted for in store closure numbers.
  • This could mean that the retail apocalypse is worse than previously thought.

As stores close around the country, one symptom of the retail apocalypse has been overlooked. While many brands announce their store closures in earnings calls and press releases, others are quietly pulling back their footprint and letting store leases expire.

A new report by the real-estate analysis firm Green Street Advisors found 2,468 “in-line” store closures in 2017, but 979 of those were not announced by the parent brand. In-line stores include all mall stores that are not department store anchors, food courts, and stalls.

The report specifically looked at the largest 25 mall retailers in the US, which have the biggest impact on malls. It found that even some retailers that have not talked about closing stores shrank their footprint in 2017, like Hallmark, which closed 101 stores, and Stride Ride, which closed 160.

Announced store closures like Aeropostale, Wet Seal, and The Limited still made up the majority, according to the data reported by Bloomberg.

In-line stores pay more for their smaller spaces in malls than anchor stores do, and they make up the bulk of mall owners' profits. The leases are also smaller, making it easier for the stores to suddenly close after leases expire.

Still, malls aren't dying everywhere. The most successful malls tend to have the most successful stores, which means fewer closures, announced or not.

A Business Insider analysis of announcements from 2017 found that an estimated 8,000 stores either closed that year or were slated to close in the near future.