We visited an Express store and the empty ghost town clearly showed why the brand is closing 100 stores

A scene from an Express store.

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A scene from an Express store.
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Bethany Biron/Business Insider

It’s been a rough week for Express.

The retailer announced plans on Wednesday to close a total of 100 stores by the end of 2022, including 31 stores by the end of this month. The news follows layoffs at Express headquarters in Columbus, Ohio and its design studio in New York City earlier this week.

The store closures are part of an effort to restructure the struggling mall brand, which has succumbed to declining foot traffic and dwindling sales in recent in recent years. In January 2019, CEO David Kornberg abruptly stepped down from the company, also pointing to trouble for the brand, which was owned by Limited Brands until 2011.

Express CEO Tim Baxter, who took over the helm in June 2019, said in a statement on Wednesday that the downsizing is part of a larger cost reduction strategy aimed at helping to bolster the ailing brand.

“My expectation is that we will return to a mid-single-digit operating margin through a combination of low-single-digit comp sales growth, margin expansion and cost reductions,” Baxter said in a statement. “This will of course take some time, but we have a clear path.”

We visited an Express store in New York City and saw firsthand why the brand is struggling. Here’s what it was like.


We visited an Express store in Manhattan’s Flatiron neighborhood, located on a busy shopping street.

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Bethany Biron/Business Insider

When we arrived shortly after 1 p.m. on a Thursday, there was hardly a shopper in sight.

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Bethany Biron/Business Insider

It was a ghost town.

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Bethany Biron/Business Insider

The women’s section was filled with tons of untouched products.

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Bethany Biron/Business Insider

As we browsed, we still didn’t see a single shopper.

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Bethany Biron/Business Insider

Where is everybody?

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Bethany Biron/Business Insider

The men’s section was equally as barren.

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Bethany Biron/Business Insider

Next, we made our way to the back of the store, where we saw some distant movement near the register.

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Bethany Biron/Business Insider

We also spotted this unused mobile checkout station.

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Bethany Biron/Business Insider

On the bottoms of the racks, we spotted tons of untouched accessories.

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Bethany Biron/Business Insider

Eventually, we found one lone shopper scouring the sale racks …

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Bethany Biron/Business Insider

… which upon closer inspection, were a mess.

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Bethany Biron/Business Insider

There were tons of overflowing bins brimming with 50% off apparel.

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Bethany Biron/Business Insider

So many wrinkles.

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Bethany Biron/Business Insider

Everywhere we looked, the store was just bursting with unsold products.

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Bethany Biron/Business Insider

We also saw several promotional signs like this one, which never bodes well.

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Bethany Biron/Business Insider

Here was another promotional sign, which also doubled as a plea to sign up for an Express credit card.

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Bethany Biron/Business Insider

There was still no one to be found by the dressing rooms.

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Bethany Biron/Business Insider

As we got closer to the register, we saw a pile of unattended returns.

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Bethany Biron/Business Insider

In general, the styles felt fairly uninspired and bland.

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Bethany Biron/Business Insider

As we were leaving, an employee gave us a free trial for the Express Style Trial rental service.

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Bethany Biron/Business Insider

We already tested this service back in September, and didn’t love it.


Ultimately, it wasn’t hard to see why Express is on the brink of decline.

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Bethany Biron/Business Insider