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NEW YORK CITY-Amid a rocky year for retail, including several bankruptcies that led to outright liquidation, the city has actually seen more chain locations open than close. That’s the conclusion to be drawn from a new report by the Center for an Urban Future, which says that 53 national stores have increased their footprints across the five boroughs over the past 12 months “despite poor economic conditions.” The report calls this expansiveness “surprising”; CUF director Jonathan Bowles did not respond to requests for additional comment by deadline.

An analysis of this year’s CUF report, which lists a total of 277 chains by number of locations and provides year-over-year comparisons for 167 of them, finds that the 53 retailers that expanded in the past 12 months have added 310 New York City locations. The 62 national chains that have shed retail space since a year ago closed a total of 245 stores.

Biggest of the gainers was Dunkin’ Donuts, which has seen a net increase of 88 locations citywide despite losing 12 of its franchises to Canadian rival Tim Hortons last month. The Canton, MA-based donut giant now has 429 stores across the five boroughs, ranking it as the city’s biggest, although in Manhattan its 105 locations are dwarfed by the 193 of Starbucks.

All of the top five national chains added locations citywide over the past 12 months, including Subway, up 26 locations to 361; McDonald’s, up 10 locations to 258; Starbucks, which ties for third place with a net gain of 23 despite closing some locations; and Duane Reade, which added 13 stores for its current total of 229. Other double-digit gainers were Walgreen’s, with 16 new locations; and T. Mobile, with 14.

Given the economy, it stands to reason that declining rents may have helped fuel this expansion: a May report by the Real Estate Board of New York’s retail committee found that asking rents had declined by 11% in six months, marking the first drop-off since 2001. On the other hand, six of the seven other retailers with 100 or more New York City locations have shrunken their footprints here, led by Rite Aid, which now operates 14 fewer stores than it did a year ago, bringing its total down to 195.

In sheer numbers, the standout shrinking act was performed by AT&T Wireless, which closed 26 of its 85 locations citywide since last year. However, the store still ranks among the 31 with 50 or more locations here.

Other stores with double-digit closings over the past 12 months included Pizza Hut, which shuttered 19 of its 39 stores; Blimpie, which closed 13 of its 50 stores; Tasti D-Lite, which closed 12 out of 53; Curves, which closed 11 out of 47; 1-800-Mattress, which closed 10 of its 16 stores citywide; and Jimmy Jazz, which also closed 10, bringing its total down to 32. Five chains that liquidated, bringing their total store counts down to zero, accounted for 38 of the 245 store closings. They included Circuit City and Burritoville, with 11 closings apiece; Levitz Furniture, which closed nine stores citywide; K.B. Toys, which closed five; and OfficeMax, which closed two.

Six of the top 10 zip codes for national retailers are in Manhattan, and the 2,552 chain stores in the borough are nearly as many as in Brooklyn and Queens combined. However, the zip code with the largest number of chain stores is 10314, representing the New Springville neighborhood of Staten Island. Its 188 national stores outnumber those in Manhattan’s West Midtown, Union Square or Columbus Circle areas. “Clearly one reason for the large concentration of retail outlets in Staten Island’s 10314 zip code is the presence of the Staten Island Mall, but this zip code is also more than 18 times larger in area than the Manhattan zip code with the second largest concentration, 10001,” the report states.

CUF says it plans to make the report, which was first published in July 2008 to gauge the impact of chain stores on local retailers, an annual event. “These numbers alone, of course, don’t paint a complete picture of the state of retail in New York City,” according to the report. “In theory, the disappearance of former powerhouses like Circuit City and the reduced presence of big chains like Pizza Hut and AT&T Wireless could create new opportunities for independent mom-and-pop retailers by freeing up space and easing upward pressure on prices. But the well-known difficulties of small businesses looking to access credit in this downturn might represent a stronger countervailing factor–and any independent retailers would face the same depressed market conditions as their larger competitors.”

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