Big retail closures continue with The Limited, downtown Barnes & Noble

Apparel chain The Limited has now closed all 250 of its stores, including five in the Twin Cities Metro. It’s the latest retailer rocked by changes in the industry.

Sears and Macy’s have also announced closings in recent weeks, and a number of retailers reported disappointing holiday sales, although overall sales were up this past holiday season.

“There's no question times are tough for retailers,” said George John, professor and General Mills/ Paul S Gerot Chair in Marketing at the University of Minnesota. “The reality of today’s retail environment is it's all fractured. A lot of things are happening at the same time.”

While e-commerce has definitely been a disruption, it still only accounts for about nine percent of all retail sales, so John contends it's not the only reason retailers are struggling.

“It’s tough to keep track of why people come to my store. Why do they buy my stuff? They come to my store and look at my stuff, and then go online and buy it for 10 cents cheaper,” John said. “There’s a lot of stuff rocking and rolling. Throw in the bad economy and you’ve got a perfect storm.”

He said the retailers that are thriving are those that fill a niche. John cites Warby Parker with eyewear or H&M with discount fashion.

“These are folks who have found something that people want and are able to execute beautifully on it,” he said.

Developers plan to fill at least part of the buildings being vacated by the Macy’s and Barnes and Noble in Downtown Minneapolis with more retailers, but it’s unclear what will go into that space.