The running list of 2020 retail bankruptcies
The pandemic has ushered in a wave of bankruptcies as retailers struggle to pay rent, vendors and other expenses.
The following post will continue to be updated to reflect the current major retailers that have filed for bankruptcy protection in 2020.
Last year sent 17 major retailers into bankruptcy. For some — including Payless, Gymboree and Charming Charlie — it was their second trip to court. Bankruptcy also proved fatal for more retailers in 2019, as liquidations increased. In all, retailers closed more than 9,500 stores last year.
This year, retailers are facing even tougher challenges, as the coronavirus outbreak caused most U.S. retail to temporarily shutter, keeping customers away, and forcing retailers to negotiate with landlords and suppliers to tackle unforeseen inventory and liquidity issues. On top of that, the forces that pushed dozens of retailers into bankruptcy over the last four years or so are still present.
This year started off with the parent of fine paper specialist Papyrus quietly going into liquidation before filing for bankruptcy, with home decor staple Pier 1 not far behind with its own, more uncertain, filing.
Here is a closer look at the major retail bankruptcies of 2020 so far.
Filing date:July 13
Outcome:Filed with plans to close many or all of its stores and potentially sell its e-commerce unit.
In June, the retailer said that a bankruptcy was "probable," and later disclosed it may have to close all of its stores in a Chapter 11 scenario. | Credit: Flickr; Phillip Pessar
RTW Retailwinds, owner of the New York & Co. banner along with Fashion to Figure, and Happy x Nature brands, was losing sales and closing stores well before the COVID-19 crisis began. But the pandemic put tremendous strain on the apparel seller's finances and operations. With its stores closed and revenue in free fall, RTW went into default with landlords, vendors and its bank, Wells Fargo. In April, its CEO-elect resigned unexpectedly, shortly after being appointed, along with four of the company's board directors. In June, the retailer said that a bankruptcy was "probable," and later disclosed it may have to close all of its stores in a Chapter 11 scenario. When the company did file for Chapter 11 in July, it planned to close "a significant portion, if not all" of its physical stores. It also was evaluating a sale of the company's e-commerce business and related intellectual property.
Filing date:July 10
Outcome:Filed for Chapter 11 aiming to pare its physical footprint, restructure operations and exit within six months.
By the end of 2019, the U.S. subsidiary had more than 20 stores, and it was in financial trouble after overexpanding and picking high-rent spaces in choice locations. | Credit: Cara Salpini for Retail Dive
Muji USA was formed in 2006 as a subsidiary of a Japan-based conglomerate that operates retail stores, campsites, cafes, hotels, model house builders and multiple other sectors, selling upwards of 7,000 products. The Muji brand was founded in Japan in 1980 as "an antithesis to the habits of consumer society at that time," according to Muji USA's chief restructuring officer, John Bittner, a senior managing director with Mackinac Partners. "On one hand, foreign-made luxury brands were gaining popularity within an economic environment of ever-rising prosperity," Bittner said in court papers. "On the other hand, poor-quality, low-priced goods were appearing on the market and had a polarizing effect on consumption patterns." Muji became a "critique" of this state of things, with the aim of selling "products that are useful for the customer and maintain an ideal of the proper balance between living and the objects that make it possible," Bittner added. Minimalist stores, low prices and an array of products including home goods, beauty, apparel, food and more drew lines to some of Muji's store openings in the U.S. A New York Times writer once called the retailer's SoHo store "gloriously affordable." By the end of 2019, the U.S. subsidiary had more than 20 stores, and it was in financial trouble after overexpanding and picking high-rent spaces in choice locations. At the end of the year, it had a negative cash balance of $26.5 million in its loan arrangement with its parent, according to Bittner. The COVID-19 pandemic would force the company to close all of its stores, deepening its woes. In bankruptcy, Bittner said the company aims to close some stores to rightsize its footprint, restructure its operations and grow its online presence. Muji USA plans to exit bankruptcy within six months.
Sur La Table
Filing date:July 8
Outcome:Filed with a plan to potentially close 51 stores and an acquisition bid from a private equity firm.
Over the five years leading up to its bankruptcy, the kitchenware specialist suffered revenue declines and a churn of executives. | Credit: The image by Phillip Pessar is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Since its founding in Seattle's Pike Place Market in 1972, Sur La Table has grown steadily. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, it had 126 stores along with a relatively robust e-commerce arm and fast-growing, revenue-generating cooking classes. But over the five years leading up to its bankruptcy, the kitchenware specialist suffered revenue declines and a churn of executives. The CEO who authored the company's first day declaration was the company's third since 2017. It also had capital expenses from installing commercial-level kitchens for its classes and debt leftover from a leveraged buyout. The pandemic crisis deepened Sur La Table's troubles and brought threats and eviction proceedings from landlords. The company filed with a plan to close more than 50 stores and sell itself to what would be a third private equity owner in nearly 15 years, a deal that would keep the company, including a pared-down physical retail presence, intact.
Filing date:July 8
Outcome:Brooks Brothers brought $75 million in debtor-in-possession financing from brand management firm WHP Global and plans to permanently close 51 stores with its Chapter 11 filing. The apparel retailer continues to look for a buyer, as it was before the filing
Casual wear has become increasingly more acceptable for the white-collar professionals who are its customer base. | Credit: Courtesy of PR Newswire
Brooks Brothers for the last nearly two decades has been run by Claudio Del Vecchio, who appreciates its 202-year-old history and its reputation for style and quality. But in that time, casual wear has become increasingly more acceptable for the white-collar professionals who are its customer base. The pandemic has tamped down demand further as people continue to work from home, interrupting a turnaround plan that has included seeking a buyer willing and able to provide the necessary resources. That's still the plan, and analysts say the retailer should be able to easily find a new owner, thanks to brand strength that has endured for more than two centuries despite the upheaval in apparel sales. WHP Global, Authentic Brands Group and Simon Property Group — the latter recently retracted a lawsuit over unpaid rent — have all been named in press reports as potential suitors.
Filing date:July 3
Outcome:Filed with plans to close around 24 of its 31 stores.
G-Star plans to pare down its footprint to about seven stores. | Credit: "G-Star Raw Storefront" by Ajay Suresh is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Founded in 1989, G-Star Raw credits itself with introducing "luxury denim for the streets." Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the company operated 31 stores in the U.S., with a flagship on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, California. Like scores of other retailers, G-Star had to close its stores when the pandemic hit the U.S., and has since determined to reduce its footprint to around seven stores (though that number could change if landlords are willing to swallow "significant concessions"), according to the company's CEO. Along with the financial pain of the closures, G-Star's stores suffered "looting during a period of civil unrest" in May and June. In bankruptcy, G-Star hopes to pare its footprint and emerge focused on its remaining profitable stores. The company has no secured debt, but rather a revolving credit account with its Netherlands-based parent.
Filing date:July 3
Outcome:Filed with a plan to close some stores and sell itself to Authentic Brands Group and an operating specialist.
Liquidity strains from store closures related to the pandemic disrupted the company’s ability to supply its stores with new inventory. | Credit: "Lucky Brand Dadeland Mall Miami" by Phillip Pessar is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Lucky Brand was one of two denim specialists to file for bankruptcy in a single day in July. Founded in 1990, the brand and retailer eventually grew to have more than 100 stores and 98 outlets in North America. As the story goes with so many retailers, debt — leftover from a leveraged buyout years earlier — left the company burdened as challenges mounted on store retail and apparel in particular. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated those challenges. Executive Chairman Matthew Kaness said at the time of filing that the pandemic and its effects have "severely impacted sales across all channels," and that business has not fully recovered yet. Liquidity strains from store closures related to the pandemic also disrupted the company's ability to supply its stores with new inventory. Lucky Brand filed for Chapter 11 with plans to jettison about a dozen unprofitable stores and sell itself for at least $140 million. Going into bankruptcy it had a bid from licensing conglomerate Authentic Brands Group and one of the operating companies Authentic Brands works with.
Filing date:June 23
Outcome:GNC filed with plans to reorganize under lender ownership or sell itself to its largest shareholder.
GNC entered bankruptcy with plans to close up to 1,200 stores. | Credit: Cara Salpini for Retail Dive
Founded in the middle of the Great Depression, the nutrition store chain that would become GNC is no stranger to economic calamity. But, after years of falling sales trying to trim its debt, the COVID-19 pandemic and economic disruption that came with it proved too much to manage outside of bankruptcy. GNC entered bankruptcy with plans to close up to 1,200 stores. It also had multiple parties willing to take it over. Key lenders agreed to a reorganization plan that would turn over ownership to them. On filing, GNC also had a $760 million offer, agreed to "in principle," from its largest shareholder, the China-based Harbin Pharmaceutical Group. The alternate plans indicate that multiple parties see value in the retailer's business and are willing to put up capital to save it.
Filing date:May 27
Outcome:Filed with plans to close about 230 stores and reorganize with fewer liabilities.
The company watched sales go to nearly nothing after it temporarily closed stores due to COVID-19. | Credit: "Tuesday Morning at the Sunset Esplanade in w:Hillsboro, Oregon." by M.O. Stevens is licensed under CC BY 4.0
On a February conference call, executives at Tuesday Morning made no mention of financial distress or bankruptcy. The off-pricer had issues, to be sure. The company posted net losses for three years running and added only modest growth to its top line. But when the COVID-19 crisis hit in March, the retailer — much smaller than peers like TJX Cos and Ross Stores — watched as its sales went to nearly nothing after it closed its stores. The company called the pandemic disruption an "insurmountable financial hurdle" that forced it into bankruptcy. The company filed for Chapter 11 with hopes of reorganizing around a footprint about a third smaller than its roughly 700 or so stores. Yet Tuesday Morning did not have a negotiated plan with lenders going into bankruptcy court, leaving the ultimate outcome open-ended for now.
Filing date:May 18
Outcome:The brand licensing company, which also runs a few of its own labels, came to bankruptcy court with a restructuring support agreement with "substantially all" of its secured lenders already in hand.
The company, which licenses over 100 well-known labels, stated that the pandemic disrupted wholesale accounts and constrained the company's cash flow. | Credit: Nautica
Centric’s own brands include Hudson, Robert Graham, Swims, Zac Posen and Avirex. The company also licenses more than 100 well known labels, including Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, Nautica, Hudson Jeans and Under Armour in apparel; Kate Spade, Michael Kors, All Saints and Jessica Simpson in accessories; and Disney, Marvel, Nickelodeon and Warner Brothers in entertainment. With apparel sales growth down and department stores in decline in recent years, the apparel and accessories brands in particular were no doubt already under pressure when the COVID-19 disease broke out worldwide. CEO Jason Rabin said in a statement that the "pandemic disrupted many of our wholesale accounts’ ordering and constrained our cash flow" but also that the agreement forged with the company's lenders ahead of its Chapter 11 filing positions it for long-term success. Centric will emerge from Chapter 11 as a private company. Debtor-in-possession financing of $435 million will allow it "to operate without interruption throughout the restructuring process," according to a company press release.
Filing date:May 15
Outcome:Filed with a plan supported by a majority of key lenders that could lead to reorganization, sale or possibly liquidation if milestones aren't met.
Executives project optimism about the retailer’s future, saying Chapter 11 will allow it to make good on turnaround plans. | Credit: J.C. Penney
After years of trying to engineer a lasting turnaround with mounting losses and constant sales declines, bankruptcy speculation turned into bankruptcy reality for the 118-year-old retailer. Executives painted a picture of a company on the mend until the COVID-19 crisis hit, but J.C. Penney’s challenges were numerous, hefty and persistent well before the pandemic. Still, the pandemic hurt. According to the company's CFO, sales in April were down 88% year over year and store sales approached zero as Penney closed its stores temporarily while the pandemic spread through the U.S. It also derailed talks with lenders that may have helped it manage its balance sheet outside of a court process. The retailer filed for Chapter 11 with support from key lenders for a plan. But even that pre-negotiated plan allows for multiple outcomes: re-organization with debt relief, a potential sale, or liquidation if the company can't agree on a go-forward business plan with key lenders in July or if it can't win third-party financing as it preps an exit. Even so, executives project optimism about the retailer’s future, saying Chapter 11 will allow it to make good on turnaround plans and unveiling plans to reduce Penney’s store footprint by nearly a third.
Filing date:May 11
Outcome:The retailer plans to liquidate in bankruptcy unless a buyer emerges to keep the company operating.
The company's chief restructuring officer said liquidity shortfalls before the pandemic created challenges, and COVID-19 was the "proverbial 'nail in the coffin.'" | Credit: Gordmans press materials
After a booming third quarter, Stage Stores went into a financial tailspin shortly after the year started. Its holiday sales fell below expectations, perhaps by a lot. The missed targets led to a liquidity crunch, as well as layoffs, store closures and diminished plans for its conversion to an off-pricer. The owner of the Bealls, Palais Royal, Peebles, Stage and Goody's department stores announced last year it would convert its remaining stores to its Gordmans model. That was based on encouraging data from stores it had already converted to Gordmans. But the holiday shortfall wrecked those plans. The company at one point considered a store footprint 200 stores smaller than what it planned as recently as the fall, sources told Retail Dive earlier this year. Stage Stores closed its stores this spring after the COVID-19 crisis hit, squeezing liquidity further and acting as the "proverbial 'nail in the coffin,'" the company’s chief restructuring officer said later in court papers. Wells Fargo also reduced the retailer’s available borrowings under its revolver; meanwhile Stage Stores was hunting for new capital. But none materialized in time. The retailer filed for bankruptcy with plans to liquidate its business entirely, unless a buyer steps up by June to buy the company and keep it operating.
Filing date:May 7
Outcome:Running out of cash, the Canadian-owned company filed with the hope of restructuring its debt and closing stores to become more competitive.
The Canadian-based retailer stated that it won't be able to survive if it can't restructure Aldo U.S.'s debt obligations. | Credit: Mike Mozart/Flickr
The Canadian Aldo Group shoe seller runs 429 stores and has 3,300 employees in the U.S. The company's vice president of finance, David Galarneau, called the U.S. "instrumental in the company's climb to recognition," with its first store opening in the country in 1993. But both the parent company and U.S. business have been in decline. Aldo U.S. posted a net loss of $52.8 million for the 12 months ending February. The company had a plan to turn around by paring its physical footprint in favor of e-commerce and replacing and buffering working capital with an asset-based lending structure. But the COVID-19 crisis derailed those efforts, forcing stores to close and bringing with it both sales declines and production delays in China. Galarneau said that without immediate financial help in bankruptcy, Aldo would be out of cash by the first week of June. In bankruptcy, Aldo hopes to restructure its debt and operations, including through store exits. The U.S. is such an important component of its turnaround effort that Galarneau said in court papers that the parent would not be able to survive if it cannot restructure Aldo U.S.'s debt obligations.
Filing date:May 7
Outcome:The department store retailer arrived at bankruptcy court having already inked an agreement with "a significant majority of its creditors," who will be majority owners if the process wraps up as expected in the fall. The plans eliminate some $4 billion of existing debt.
The retailer also runs New York City’s Bergdorf Goodman, the Horchow site and a chain of off-price Last Call stores. | Credit: Daphne Howland/Retail Dive
Thanks to an albatross of debt from two rounds of private equity buyouts, it's been difficult for Neiman Marcus Group to invest in innovations the way Nordstrom or even Macy's have in recent years. The department store sector in general has been down in the dumps for years now, putting any player with extra burdens like that at particular disadvantage. Still, the century-old Dallas-based retailer has maintained fierce loyalty among some very high-spending customers. And, thanks to a virtual styling service that has helped stoke online sales, the retailer rakes in 30% of its sales from online, even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The Mytheresa business, however — the subject of much contention in recent years — isn't part of the Chapter 11 process and "will continue to operate independently," the company said. The company runs 67 stores across the U.S., including both department store names, so it isn't over-stored like some rivals, according to one bankruptcy document. But one of its creditors would nevertheless like to shutter as many as 29 stores, as part of a proposed merger with Saks Fifth Avenue, another luxe department store, if one with a somewhat different clientele. The disease outbreak presents further challenges, including signs of weakness in luxury. After declining by about 25% in the first quarter, the global luxury market is expected to slow further, and could contract 20% to 35% this year, according to Bain and Co.
Filing date:May 4
Outcome:J. Crew filed for Chapter 11 with plans to convert debt into company stock and keep the Madewell brand in-house.
Through Chapter 11, the company plans to convert about $1.7 billion in debt to an equity stake in the company. | Credit: Flickr; Ryan McKnight
Burdened with debt from a private equity buyout, preppy mainstay J. Crew was a bankruptcy risk for years before the COVID-19 crisis hit. Moreover, some observers say the apparel seller had made several style and quality missteps in its merchandising that hurt its brand. The pandemic appears to have been too much for the retailer to manage without help from a court, especially after the crisis derailed an IPO effort for Madewell, which could have provided much-needed debt relief. The company’s COO, Michael Nicholson, said that the company projected a $900 million decline in sales after closing its stores in March. "Though many companies across all industries faced hardships and tumultuous market conditions, [J. Crew was] uniquely and severely impacted as a customer-facing retailer in an already struggling industry,” Nicholson said. The company filed for Chapter 11 in early May with negotiated plans to convert around $1.7 billion in debt to an equity stake in the company, which would turn control over to lenders. J. Crew is also exploring its store footprint, which numbered about 500 stores at the time of filing. As part of J. Crew’s bankruptcy plan, the fast-growing Madewell brand will stay with the company.
Filing date:April 29
Outcome:The Canadian parent put its U.S. subsidiary in Chapter 7 but is keeping two stores and an e-commerce presence alive.
The retailer said it would close seven of its locations, including in Boston, Washington, D.C., Chicago, and a pop-up in New York, as part of the Chapter 7 process. | Credit: Roots Canada Facebook page
Last year, the bulk of Canadian outdoor apparel retailer Roots’ stores in the U.S. racked up a CA$6 million loss. The challenges only steepened with COVID-19 as Roots shuttered all of its North American stores. The parent company decided to pull the plug on Roots USA Corporation, putting it in Chapter 7 bankruptcy with plans to close seven stores in the U.S. That includes locations in Boston, Washington, D.C., Chicago, and a pop-up in New York. Roots hasn’t given up entirely on the U.S. market, though. The company said that it "believes a principally eCommerce-based distribution in the near-term is the best approach to continuing to serve its loyal U.S. customer base." The Canadian parent also took ownership of two U.S. stores in Utah and Michigan with plans to keep them in operation. Those stores in particular "play important roles in the Company's heritage and have well-established customer bases," Roots said.
Filing date:April 13
Outcome:Filed for Chapter 11 with plans to re-open "many" of its stores after the pandemic.
The retailer filed for Chapter 11 seeking court protection from its rent obligations. | Credit: "True Religion Brand Jeans" by Mike Mozart is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Even before the spread of COVID-19 forced True Religion to close its 87 stores, the denim specialist's sales were in decline and its profits were negative. After shuttering its footprint in response to the pandemic, 80% of its sales disappeared, according to the company. The retailer filed for Chapter 11 seeking new financing and court protection from its rent obligations for 60 days while its stores remained closed. The bankruptcy was True Religion's second since 2017, when it filed in an effort to ease its balance sheet of debt left over from a private equity buyout. The company's interim CFO said True Religion planned to open "many" of its stores "as soon as practical."
Modell's Sporting Goods
Filing date:March 11
Outcome:Modell’s filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy with plans to liquidate its 134-store fleet and sell its IP.
The retailer hired RBC Capital Markets to pursue a sale in January, and while the firm had a “potential bidder” in hand, negotiations fell apart March 10, and a day later the retailer filed. | Credit: Kaarin Vembar/Retail Dive
Founded in 1889, Modell's spent the early months of 2020 trying to negotiate deals with landlords and vendors to stave off bankruptcy. The retailer hired RBC Capital Markets to pursue a sale of the sporting goods retailer in January, and while the firm reached out to 14 strategic buyers in recent weeks, and had a “potential bidder” for the company in hand, negotiations fell apart March 10, and a day later the retailer filed. In late February, the company announced it would have to close 19 stores unless it could "appropriately restructure the leases," and CEO Mitchell Modell announced he would offer a minority stake in the business to an interested buyer. That didn't happen, and the 19 closures turned into a chain-wide liquidation as Modell recognized it would provide “the greatest recovery for our creditors." Modell's pointed to a number of factors that influenced its path to bankruptcy, including the shift to e-commerce, competition from big-box and specialty players, and a series of unfortunate short-term events.
Art Van Furniture
Filing date:March 9
Outcome:Art Van Furniture filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection with plans to pursue a going-concern sale for some of its locations under its Levin and Wolf banner, while liquidating the remainder of its stores.
Art Van Furniture plans to pursue a going-concern sale for some of its locations and liquidate the remainder of its stores. | Credit: "Art Van Furniture store, 425 E. Eisenhower Pkwy., Ann Arbor, MI 48108" by Dwight Burdette is licensed under CC BY 3.0
Art Van Elslander opened the first Art Van location in Detroit in 1959 and eventually grew his business to be one of the leading furniture retailers in the Midwest. However, as competition grew in the space from both online retailers like Amazon and Wayfair, as well as from mass merchants, traditional furniture retailers like Art Van lost market share. Under "extreme market conditions and faced with limited liquidity," the furniture retailer filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in Delaware. The founder sold his company to private equity firm Thomas H. Lee Partners in March 2017, and later that year Art Van Furniture acquired Pennsylvania-based companies Levin and Wolf. Aside from a going-concern sale of 44 stores and two distribution centers under its Levin and Wolf banners, the retailer — which also operates Art Van, Art Van PureSleep and Scott Shuptrine Interiors — will close all of its locations through going-out-of-business sales.
Filing date:March 9
Outcome:Filed for Chapter 11 with a dark horse bid from a major lender to buy it as a going concern.
Bluestem Brands' direct-to-consumer business spans seven brands, two million customers, multiple categories, and various channels, including online, direct mail and telephone. Holdings include the Appleseed's, Blair, Draper's & Damon's, Gettington, Fingerhut, Haband and Old Pueblo Traders brands. Ahead of bankruptcy, the company faced tightening trade terms with suppliers as it struggled financially. That was exacerbated when S&P Global downgraded the company, with analysts citing "our expectation that the company's operating performance will remain weak amid continued pressures in the retail industry, and our view of liquidity as less than adequate." The retailer's liquidity was also hurt by high debt payments and a weak fourth quarter, a restructuring adviser said in court papers. It filed for bankruptcy with an agreement from Cerberus Business Finance for $125 million in debtor-in-possession financing. Cerberus was also a pre-bankruptcy lender and behind the entity BLST Acquisition Company, which has made a $300 million bid for Bluestem to keep it operating as a going concern, and which would set the baseline for an auction, if one is needed.
Filing date:Feb. 17