Once a behemoth of the nutrition industry, GNC is shuttering over 900 of its brick-and-mortar stores and shifting its focus to online sales amid rumors of a potential bankruptcy filing.
A household name in the fitness world, GNC’s iconic black-and-red supplement boxes are probably a well-known visual to most bodybuilders. But GNC made the sad announcement on Monday that they were moving forward with plans to close over 900 of their stores and lay off up to 28% of their workforce.
“These decisions were extremely difficult but necessary as we navigate the challenges ahead of us,” Ken Martindale, GNC’s chairman and CEO, said in the release. “We are focused on our people and our business, and because of that we had to take decisive action.”
The closures will mostly affect GNC locations that are at malls, which have seen a slow but steady decline in foot traffic over the past decade or so. As consumer trends shift to online shopping and strip malls, these locations become less and less profit-viable. So, the good news is that, although some of these GNC stores may be going away, if your local GNC isn’t in a mall, you’re probably safe. Phew.
GNC hasn’t formally filed for bankruptcy, but the tone of their meeting suggests the company is at the very least headed in that general direction.
“GNC is facing up to the reality of the marketplace as the final chapter unfolds in the death of the American everyday mall and we transition through the ‘Post-Department Store Era,'” retail analyst Nick Egelanian shared in an interview with Retail Dive. “It is no coincidence that JC Penney announced last week that it has retained a debt restructuring consultant to help it deal with flagging sales and an enormous and maturing debt load — which is of course a thinly veiled hint that a bankruptcy filing is coming (despite their protestations to the contrary).”
If GNC were to close its doors for good, that would be a tremendous loss to bodybuilders who have come to respect on their product for its consistency and availability. But, as times change and our buying habits evolves, business must be forced to face the music and figure out a way to carry on. There are definitely a lot of other great supplement companies out there, though none, maybe, as ubiquitous as GNC. If they do some serious restructuring, they could linger on for a few more years by adapting to consumer trends. But their path forward as a company now really relies on their ability to be adaptable to change and take exciting new opportunities for their brand when they arise. Remember, whenever God closes a door, he always opens a window.