It is the time of year when America's largest retailers release those critical holiday season figures and disclose their annual sales.
A review of these numbers tells us a great deal about how most of the companies will do in the coming year. And while successful retailers in 2012 may add stores this year, those that have struggled may have to cut locations in 2013 to improve margins or reverse losses.
For many retailers, the sales situation is so bad that it is not a question of whether they will cut stores, but when and how many. Most recently, Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS) decided it had too many stores to maintain profits. Its CEO recently said he plans to close as many as a third of the company's locations.
Several of America's largest retailers have been battered for years. Most have been undermined by a combination of e-commerce competition, often from Amazon.com (NASDAQ: AMZN) and more successful retailers in the same areas. Borders and Circuit City are two of the best examples of retailers that were destroyed by larger bricks-and-mortar competition and consumers transitioning to online shopping. These large, badly damaged retailers could not possibly keep their stores open.