Big-box stores are dropping like flies. As of November, the amount of shuttered U.S. retail space was already 16% higher than the Great Recession year 2008, according to CoStar, a real estate research firm. And 43% of the 2017 closures—or 43 million square feet of space—were big-box stores like Sears and Macy's.
But the more dramatic retail story of the year was bankruptcies, which are at a six-year high, according to S&P Global. As of Dec. 14, 50 U.S. retailers had filed for bankruptcy in 2017, higher than the 47 in all of last year. That includes 21 major retailers (see chart below), more than double the nine that filed for bankruptcy in 2016. The numbers are surging toward the peaks of the post-financial crash period, when, in 2010 and 2011, retail bankruptcies totaled 67 and 59, respectively.