Health and wellness retailer GNC plans to close up to 900 stores, with big cuts to mall locations expected. Officials with the Pittsburgh-based chain spoke of their continued "store optimization effort" during GNC's second-quarter earnings call with analysts Monday. In the first six months of 2019, GNC records show 192 company-owned and franchise locations have already closed. GNC officials announced in November 2018 that they would close up to 900 stores over the next three years in the U.S. and Canada as leases expire. That plan appears to have been accelerated.
Total Retail's Take: GNC is taking steps to remove its stores from shopping malls, which have struggled to attract shoppers as more purchasing takes place online. Of GNC’s approximately 4,100 U.S. locations, 61 percent are in strip centers and 28 percent are in malls, Chairman and CEO Ken Martindale said, noting strip center locations have been “relatively stable from a comparable sales perspective.” By closing its unprofitable mall-based store locations, GNC has made the necessary decision to seek out alternative channels to drive sales. One such channel includes brand partnerships, with GNC having already entered into agreements with Dick's Sporting Goods, Hudson News, and Rite Aid to sell its products in their stores. Partnerships between traditional brick-and-mortar retailers is a growing trend, as brands try to leverage combined strengths to hold off growing competition online, as well as maximize investments in physical retail space.