J Crew will shutter 39 of its stores by the end of January after suffering a tough 2017. The clothing store company lost $161 million in the first nine months of the year, and sales fell by 12 per cent in the most recent quarter – compared with being down 9 per cent in the same quarter a year ago.

Mike Nicholson, J Crew’s chief operating officer, told CNN Money that its decision to shut down the stores was in line with its shift from a ‘traditional brick-and-mortar’ model to a ‘digital-first’ one.

Some 250 front-of-house staff will receive severance payments as the 39 stores – which comprise six per cent of the company’s total – are closed down. Those severance payments were responsible for the increase in losses in the last quarter, the company claimed.

J Crew isn’t the only company that’s closing up its physical stores. In total 6,700 stores closed in the US alone between January and the end of October this year – that’s already more than any other year on record. That’s 600 more stores than closed in 2008, as the recession hit, Fung Global Retail & Technology, a retail think tank, said.

This comes despite the continued fall of unemployment figures in the US, which have trended down steadily since a peak of 10 per cent in October 2009. Today unemployment stands at 4.2 per cent – the lowest it’s been since January 2001.

J Crew will close double the stores it originally planned to after a tough year

That suggests the growth of online retailing is absorbing workers laid off due to changes in brick-and-mortar stores. The National Retail Federation says that, for the first time, more people are shopping online than in stores this year. And the amount of money expected to be spent is around $1,000 per person – a record high, and an increase of 3.4 per cent on last year’s figures.