After reading our previous article about the topic, you can probably think of a few chain stores that are no more. And now, you are about to learn about additional brands that we could be seeing less and less of in the future.
24 Hour Fitness
It's not only retail companies that have been hit by the consumer changes the world has been experiencing lately, but it's also health and fitness facilities that have seen brighter days. Up until 2020, everything under one roof health clubs was a hit thing, and like everything else, preferences have changed.
Boutique fitness clubs and unique classes in cheaper facilities have stood up to the old-school gyms, not to mention, people resorted to working out at home since they had to stay in. This made fitness clubs change their path and close more than 100 branches, which is what happened to 24 Hour Fitness.
Sur La Table
If you are a cook who enjoys splurging on kitchenware, you probably know the unfortunate facts about this company. The prestigious kitchenware seller first opened its doors in 1972. It offered exquisite and unique kitchenware, turning even the simplest cook into a gourmand chef. Sadly, Sur La Table's days were numbered.
In July 2020, Sur La Table filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and closed all of its stores. (More than 70!) As it turned out, the brand was already struggling in 2015 but was hoping to survive. As people began cooking at home more, the need for cheap and accessible kitchenware was in demand, something that Sur la Table could not offer.
Muji USA has only a handful of stores located only in California and New York, however, each and every one of them was very successful. Until 2020 came along, that is. Known for its modest and minimalist design, Japanese Muji struggled to keep itself above water, however, statistics won, and Muji USA fell with the others.
Muji USA filed for bankruptcy in July 2020., stating that the global health crisis was the main reason for it. Although it had closed all of its stores, it continues to offer its brilliant designs online, and obviously still operates stores in overseas locations.
New York & Company
For decades, since it was first established in 1918, this workwear retailer was making great bank. It has even featured big-name celebrities in its ads such as Eva Longoria, Iman, Cindy Crawford, Patrick Dempsey, and Gabrielle Union. Not anymore though. Almost 400 stores of New York & Company closed completely in 2020 as part of its Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Now, not only did the company close its on-street stores, but it has sold the e-commerce business. What started off as the temporary closing of a store led to permanent closure, and New York & Company of 1918 was no longer profitable. Sales decreased, expenses escalated, and a 100-year-old institution locked its doors for good.
Lord & Taylor
The exquisite department store was one of the oldest ones around. It first opened its doors in 1826 and grasped on to success for almost two centuries. In 2020 it closed the doors of all of its physical stores and, under new ownership (Saadia Group), opened only an online entry.
Lord & Taylor is just another example of the changes the world and its consumers are going through. For nearly 200 years, this grand establishment stood firm and gracefully rolled the dollars, even lending its support to multiple seasons of "Project Runway", however, foot traffic these days is no longer enough.
When it comes to bankruptcy, there is always someone to blame, however, no one is around to take responsibility. When it comes to Century 21's story, the CEO blamed the CFO, and the CFO blamed mismanagement led by...the CEO.
The bottom line is, Century 21 closed down all of its stores in 2020 following financial debt. It was a family business, therefore, the damage was not only monetary but also emotional. In the middle of 2021, the chain announced that it will reopen some of its stores in locations such as Cortland Street and Bay Ridge, so we may not have seen the last of it yet.
Furniture Factory Outlet
The furniture industry suffered tremendously between the years 2020 and 2022, and it did not pass over Furniture Factory Outlet. The retail brand, at its peak, had almost 70 stores, however, it was forced to close 37 of them in 2020 alone.
In December 2020, the investors in the brand decided to change the name to American Freight, hoping this could mean a turn in faith too. The few American Freight stores the company still operates are open for business, so please pay them a visit if you are looking for a new couch. We are all for local brands!
If you own a farm or work at a farm — past or present — you would know this brand. Otherwise, you probably never have heard of it. Stock+Field was known as a farming and agricultural retail brand. After more than 55 years, it sadly decided to close its 25 stores and file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Stock+Field was not immune to the financial chaos the year 2020 brought with it. In 2021, the retail chain decided to reopen, however, this was under new ownership. Initially, the new owners were not planning on leaving the same name, however, they eventually decided to let Stock+Field live.
The financial challenges that Loves Furniture was facing in early 2021 were caused by so many reasons. The company claims it was all down to supply chain issues, however, the bankruptcy filing shows that mismanagement, unhappy customers, and inventory issues were the cause of losing business.
That sounds like enough to tear down pretty much any company no matter what they sell. Loves Furniture was established in 1959 under the name of Art Van Furniture. Changing the name to Loves Furniture didn't seem to bring it much luck, and in March 2022, it closed its doors, letting off more than 3000 employees.
Christopher & Banks
Over the years of its existence, this company manages to open hundreds of stores. Literally hundreds. However, in January 2021, Christopher & Banks announced it would close all of its 450 stores, spread nationwide. The brand serviced mainly middle age women who, following the global health crisis, were not exactly rushing out of their homes to go shopping.
The hit was hard. Christopher & Banks weren't happy with solely managing its business online, although it was increasing during 2020, and in March 2021, they sold their shares completely to Hilco Merchant Resources. On-street stores of Christopher & Banks no longer exist.
As of January 2021, the ravishing French beauty retailer was more than 15 million dollars behind in rent. That sounds like quite a debt. L’Occitane US claims that the rent they are asked to pay in some of the store locations did not reflect the market and, therefore, could not stand behind its obligations.
In August 2021, the company shuffled its card once again and emerged from Chapter 11. However, this was not the end of the story yet. L’Occitane US has closed and continues to close many unprofitable stores, grasping onto the edges only in a few main locations.
Solstice Marketing Concepts
The well-known sunglasses establishment filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February 2021. More than 60 of its stores were barely covering costs following ongoing lockdowns, which obviously were not part of the brand's business plan. After emerging from bankruptcy, the company was given a second chance.
Solstice Marketing Concepts partners gave an aid package of more than $6 million, hoping the brands will see shinier days. They are currently operating 45 stores, offering brand-name sunglasses, prescription glasses, and contact lenses to their customers. They also have an online store, which presumably doesn't cost as much as maintaining an actual store.
Belk was established in 1888. Wow, that is so long ago! For well over a century, it held more than 300 stores spread over 16 states. The well-known department store struggled to adapt to the 21st century and sank into deep trouble around 2015.
The following years were not delivering any good news to the entire retail industry, however, Belk managed to reduce its debt by almost 25 percent. Belk still operates today in a much more modest manner and mainly uses the income to pay off its remaining high debt. Still, it seems the days for Belk are numbered.
One of our favorite stationery brands (and you would be hard-pressed to find someone who loves stationary as much as we do) has closed its doors. The global health crisis of 2020 and 2021 caused a decrease in weddings, events, and special occasions, which naturally led to a decrease in the demand for stationery.
The company was unprepared for such a downfall — as was the rest of the world — and wrongly evaluated the crisis. In 2021, Paper Source awarded its executives with a combined bonus of $1.5 million, all this before paying its suppliers. From there, the road to bankruptcy was short.
Alex and Ani
Alex and Ani was founded in 2001, and June 2021 saw its last days. The fine jewelry company, best known for its bangle bracelets, was very successful in its early days, hitting the one billion dollar valuation. That did not last long enough, though.
Legal complications, mismanagement, and inability to proceed and adapt to consumer changes brought the brand to a decrease of 40 percent in revenue, eventually leading it to bankruptcy. To save costs, the company no longer manufactures its products in America and started closing down different locations, ultimately coming down to seven branches in the United States.
Founded in Australia in the year 1990, this retail store still has branches in different locations around the world, but we are here to talk about how it's doing in the US. In 2020, the sales of Lorna Jane decreased by more than 50%. The retail brand succeeded in e-commerce and adapted well to world changes.
However, they were still unable to stay committed to their obligations. And there was more to come. In 2021 Lorna Jane falsy advertised that their goods were protective against health issues and were fined more than $3 million. This was the beginning of the end that came in September 2021.
ABC Carpet & Home
Believe it or not, ABC Carpet & Home had been on our streets for almost 130 years before sadly closing its doors, leaving a debt of almost $8 million. The change in consumption habits and the fact that fewer and fewer people shop in actual stores have driven the brand to the bottom.
As online shopping is escalating, stores like ABC Carpet & Home were extremely affected by supply chain disruption and less foot traffic. Looks like this company couldn't transition into online platforms well enough. Digital consumers were not good enough for the brand, and like many others in their industry, they went bankrupt.
In the early days of 2022, Escada America filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The US front of the German luxury clothing brand had been struggling for almost a decade, however, the earlier bankruptcy of the brand, which occurred in 2009, had a direct link to the one in 2022, which could not be ignored.
The dream Escada had of succeeding in the land of the free and the home of the brave crumbled by. Although five stores still remain open so they can pay their creditors, the future doesn't seem so bright for Escada. Not with their American clients anyway.
2022 was not a good year for many retail brands, Olympia Sports being one of them. It was established in the early 1970s and, at its peak, consisted of more than 230 stores nationwide, but things are looking a little different now. Up until 2019, only unprofitable stores were closed.
However, as 2020 kicked in, the brand took a hit and went into deep financial trouble. Faulty order management held by the parent organization, alongside the worldwide health crisis, brought the company to the verge of bankruptcy, and in 2022 Olympia Sports had to ultimately close its doors for good.
Francesca’s sells fun and elegant fashions and accessories priced affordably. Francesca’s chain consists of 727 boutique stores. Unfortunately, Francesca’s has failed to pull a profit since 2017. A realignment of its executive board shook things up, and severe cost-cutting efforts gave their effect.
Sales dived 14% since 2018. Its market price tanked as well. At just under seventy cents per share, Francesca’s stock did so poorly that it tumbled right off the Nasdaq! Nasdaq requires $1 and above for trades on its stock market. Francesca’s also implemented a mass layoff at both the corporate and store levels. It cut $15 million a year in budget costs. Here’s to a better year for Francesca!
Donna Karan New York (DKNY) created her brand after serving as head designer at Anne Klein for many years. The company that owned Anne Klein allowed Karan and her husband the opportunity to launch DKNY. They took the chance and founded Donna Karan International in 1989. For 30 years, she headed the DKNY brand. She later launched the Urban Zen brand and turned her attention to philanthropy.
Many recognize supermodel Cara Delevingne as the face of DKNY, but Donna Karan was the mind behind the high-end brand. In 2001 Louis Vuitton Monët Hennessy (LVMH) purchased DKNY. In 2015 Karan stepped down. At that time, LVMH sold DKNY to the G-III Apparel Group. The investment group paid $650 million. Now, according to lists published by USA Today and other publications, 41 DKNY stores closed in 2019.
Kiko is an Italian makeup and skincare company that operates Kiko USA under its Kiko Milano brand. Out of its 28 U.S. retail locations, 24 went away. Kiko is yet another victim of the 2018 Retail Apocalypse. The brand that looks for a niche between pricey, high-end makeup products and drug store cheapies dates its woes back to 2016 when a crisis in liquidity hit its bottom line.
Sales took a dive. It all came to a head in January 2018 when it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Closing its retail locations saves $7.1 million a year. Also, part of its post-bankruptcy playbook is teaming up with Amazon Prime and growing Kiko USA’s e-commerce sales.
Cole Haan, a chic shoe brand that found itself under threat of doom, has not gone the way of Nine West. It operated over 70 of its own worldwide locations. Its new owners, private equity firm Apax Partners Worldwide LLP, have taken the company in a new direction.
Apax Partners purchased Cole Haan from sportswear giant Nike in 2012 for $570 million. Cole Haan, known for its dressy stylish look, has navigated its product toward premium, comfy casual shoes like sneakers and other lifestyle footwear. While some customers do not like the shift, it seems to keep the brand afloat.
According to Forbes, Victoria’s Secret has lost its touch. And, try as it may regain it, the financial numbers are not adding up. The store hasn’t seen a significant gain since 2015 and has been in a morbid decline since 2018. Victoria’s Secret operates under parent-company L Brands. Together with Bath & Body Works and PINK, L Brands, headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, sells women’s apparel exclusively. The company premiered with Victoria’s Secret in 1977.
This happened when Roy Raymond, after becoming frustrated with the limited lingerie options at department stores while shopping for his wife, decided to open a “Victorian-boudoir” themed lingerie store in Palo Alto. He named his new lingerie alternative Victoria’s Secret. It became a worldwide sensation known for fashioning a chic club of the world’s top supermodels. The closure of 30 stores in 2018 was dismal news. 2019 almost doubles it.
Pier 1 Imports
In 2018 the niche-import big-box retailer of unique home goods announced it would close 25 stores. Pier 1 then brought in new CEO Cheryl Bachelder by the 2018 fourth quarter and said goodbye to former CEO Alasdair James. Noting, at the time, that the store is missing on style, value, and selection for their shoppers, Bachelder added, now it’s all about “taking the bold actions needed to restore the health and promise of the business.”
Moody’s, a leading investment analyst firm, however, altered its Pier 1 outlook to “negative” once Bachelder took the helm. On the other hand, Moody’s recognized the company’s relatively light debt load but then worried about the $251 million worth of debt that was left. If Pier 1 is going to turn around, it better be soon!
Fashion and fun have come together at Claire’s for countless years. Many girls will fondly recall shopping with friends or getting their ears pierced for the very first time at the mall accessory shop. Sadly, for all those memories, Claire's filed for bankruptcy in 2018. On the upside, the store is yet holding onto its chain. Out of its 1,570 stores, only 170 closed.
This was an effort to manage its $2 billion worth of debt. Most of the $2 billion debt traces back to 2007 when a private equity firm, Apollo Global Management, purchased Claire’s, buying it out for $3.1 billion. Struggling to repay that debt, the company shelved 150 stores in 2016.
Target is one of America’s most popular stores. It's so popular it almost has a ritual-like aura for some shoppers. And yet it's here on our list. With $72 billion in revenue for 2018, an increase of 3.48% over the year before, it’s easy to see why Target is the eighth-largest retailer in the U.S.
And, even if shoppers are getting tired of the Target brand, it got away with clothing only six stores. Additionally, the company is opening small-format stores in downtown areas and on college campuses. In Santa Barbara, Cape Cod, Washington, D.C., and Seattle will all boast of mini-Targets.
Williams-Sonoma has been making our kitchens and living spaces higher-quality and more inviting for over a half-century. Mr. Charles Williams originally set up shop in Sonoma, California, in 1947. But by 1958, he relocated the store to San Francisco, where clients like Julia Childs could easily access his array of fine French kitchenware. He expanded to Beverly Hills, adding catalog sales, and then gobbled up Pottery Barn in the mid-1980s.
Business thrived until the Amazon craze nearly flooded him out. A recent shakeup finds brand president Janet Hayes resigning and making way for Ryan Ross, executive vice president of various brands at the company. According to Retail Dive, in 2019, the store experienced a bump, with sales up 3% over last year; however, they eventually closed 30 stores in 2019.
This Boston-based Italian restaurant filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in April 2018. Luckily, 58 of Bertucci’s wood-fired pizzerias are still open. Since 2011, the restaurant had seen declining sales year after year. It was not alone. Most mid-priced sit-down eateries have been struggling to make ends meet nationwide. Rescued from the brink of bankruptcy, Earl Enterprises picked Bertucci’s up for $20 million.
Bertucci’s is now in the company of Planet Hollywood, Buca di Beppo, Earl of Sandwich, and Tequila Taqueria. Whew. You can almost hear the collective sigh of New England and East Coast diners. Maybe founder, Bostonian Joey Crugnale, an emigrant of Sulmona, Italy, is relieved too. Bertucci’s isn’t going away. Why not Crugnale’s? I guess Bertucci’s just sounded better.
Pregnant women, those who are planning on pregnancy, or any of you who just dabbles in maternity clothes for recreational reasons, this one's for you. If your destination is Destination Maternity, it may not be there when you arrive. The chain shut 67 of its stores in 2019. Destination Maternity is the umbrella maternity store.
It now includes Motherhood Maternity and A Pea in the Pod shops. All of these mall stores have been unable to compete against online retailers. Destination Maternity developed a new Amazon Marketplace storefront and offered same-day delivery in N.Y.C. The company is calling its restructuring efforts “Destination Forward.”
A double-whammy. In April 2017, Payless filed for bankruptcy and attempted to salvage the chain by getting rid of 700 stores and $435 million in debt. Its efforts tanked. By April 2019, all stores closed, as per a second bankruptcy ruling filed in February 2019. Two bankruptcies in less than two years.
What’s left of the company is $470 million in debt and 2,500 vacant shoe shops. Of note, the liquidation of all its stores is the largest liquidation event in U.S. retail history. E-commerce options for Payless Shoes also disappeared. The Topeka, Kansas, company had been selling shoes since 1956.
Brookstone survived a 2014 bankruptcy filing after a Chinese conglomerate, Sanpower, purchased it at auction for $173 million. But it didn’t survive the 2018 retail apocalypse. Or, as the company says, it could not overcome an “extremely challenging retail environment at malls.” Except for its 35 airport stores and Brookstone.com, the entire chain of 101 mall stores closed. The mall stop that gave shoppers a break to gawk over Brookstone’s quirky gadgets, or check out the massage chairs, is sorely missed. Brookstone helped launch brands like iRobot and Fitbit.
The novelty of the store’s originality has been made somewhat obsolete by the vast array of online products. The first store opening was in 1973. In the ‘90s Bain Capital, led by Mitt Romney, took the company public. In keeping the more profitable airport stores running, they were able to secure a buyer. BlueStar Alliance bought it out of bankruptcy for $72 million. The company plans to continue selling Brookstone gadgets on shelves at stores such as Macy’s, Bloomingdales, and Bed Bath & Beyond.
Mattress Firm almost closed its doors. In addition to the Retail Apocalypse statistics, Mattress Firm is the nation’s largest mattress company to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Nevertheless, the Houston-based sleep chain made short work of it. Filing on October 5, 2018, just over a month later, all proceedings were in line.
To be exact, by November 11, 2018, executive chair and CEO Steve Stagner announced, “This is an exciting day for Mattress Firm as we emerge a stronger and more competitive company.” Its reorganization includes shuttering 700 underperforming stores, leaving a remaining 2,600 in operation. The company also secured a $525 million cushion for operations and growth within the agreement. Back to the business of beds.
The Walking Company
The Walking Company is another comfort-wear shoe brand to succumb to a 2018 bankruptcy. However, this company walked away with most of its stores intact. It wasn’t the first bankruptcy filing for The Walking Company. In 2009 the company needed protection after a rapid expanse of stores met a lagging economy in the midst of the 2008 Financial Crisis.
Then, in 2018, it filed for what is becoming known as “Chapter 22 bankruptcy” as more and more companies are filing for a second bankruptcy. To confront competition from online e-tailing, The Walking Company launched a website. Since its 2016 acquisition, it has owned and operated the FootSmart website and catalog.
One store at risk for a 2019 bankruptcy is J. Crew. Their problem? A $2 billion debt issue. Of course, they made some mistakes that caused shoppers to buy elsewhere, but, in the end, it added up to a net loss of $125 million for 2017. To put its debt issues in perspective, the company paid $30 million per quarter in interest payments to pay down its debt.
The Los Angeles-based company started out as a specialty catalog retailer. J Crew’s niche rugged outdoor wear designs caught on, and by the 2000s, the company offered brick-and-mortar stores. For some reason, they tried an upscale appeal, and their effort, like the proverbial last straw, sank the ship.
Eddie Bauer retail stores did pretty well during the late ‘80s into the ‘90s with its rough, outdoorsman wear. Founder, Eddie Bauer, invented the quilted down jacket in 1940 and plenty of other flannel-centric sportswear—becoming the U.S. Army’s clothier for WWII airmen and beyond. The Army even allowed the company logo on its servicemen’s standard-issue gear. And what about Ford? The Ford Motor Company used the Eddie Bauer logo to designate certain vehicle models. In 1984 they came out with the limited edition Eddie Bauer Bronco.
Once the 2000s hit, the company became increasingly riddled with financial woes. It filed for bankruptcy, for the first time, in 2003. In 2009, it was back to the bankruptcy court. It survived both filings. Some analysts date Eddie Bauer’s financial woes back to 2009 when the store shifted to women’s sportswear. Since then, it’s tried to move back to the rugged testosterone-inspired styles, but the debt is just not going away. Eddie Bauer was looking for a buyer back in 2014, and once again, it’s been looking for a new owner to run its 370 stores and take over its $400 million debt.
E-commerce is affecting nearly every brick-and-mortar sector. Retail has been hit the hardest, and Nordstrom is no exception. No less than three full-size department stores had to be closed down in 2019. Since then, Nordstrom announced four more closures. On the other hand, Nordstrom has developed a robust e-commerce enterprise.
According to The Motley Fool, the store’s digital sales brought in 30 percent of total sales, with nowhere to go but up. Sales are continuing to rise. Cutting back on lower-performing brick-and-mortar stores with the recent store closings is a strategic effort by the family-operated corporation to maximize future profitability.
Saks Off 5th
Saks Off 5th is the Nordstrom Rack of Saks Fifth Avenue luxury department store. The offshoot was launched in 1990 and became a popular high-end outlet store with over 100 locations nationwide. When Canadian retail giant Hudson Bay Company (HBC) acquired Saks Off 5th, along with its parent company Saks Fifth Avenue, it expanded both chains into Canada.
HBC also expanded Saks Off 5th to Europe. HBC scaled back its expansion, closing all of its European and Canadian stores. Although there are no official details, HBC estimates that 20 U.S. locations are on the cutting block. The move is part of a streamlining and growth effort, according to Saks Off 5th CEO Helena Foulkes.
Barneys New York
In 2018, a $34 million dive in revenue from February to June landed the luxury department store company in bankruptcy court. Barneys New York filed for Chapter 11 protection in August of that year. Full-size Barneys department stores in Seattle, Chicago, and Las Vegas closed, as well as some smaller stores.
The century-old retailer launched with a sophisticated New York-chic discount appeal. As legend has it, Mr. Barney Pressman pawned his wife’s engagement ring in 1923 to procure the cash for opening a men’s clothing storefront on Seventh Avenue. It’s always been about style and panache. In the 1970s, Barneys added women’s apparel. But it wasn’t until the 1960s when a shift toward men’s designer fashions transitioned Barneys to its contemporary luxury presence.
Signet Jewelers, home of Kay Jewelers, Zales, and Jared, the top mall brands, faired even worse than Victoria’s Secret. In 2018 Signet Jewelers shuttered 262 stores, most of them located in the U.S., and after a disappointing earnings report, the company announced plans to close 150 more stores.
2020, which was a bad year for business all around, saw the company making 15% less than the previous year, however, online sales were at an all-time high with a 58% rise. Signet Jewelers is the world’s largest diamond retailer, with more than 3,500 locations. Despite the 2% drop in sales, CEO Virginia C. Drosos remains optimistic.
National Stores Inc.
National Stores Inc. is a relatively small discount clothing chain with 344 stores. That was before it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in August 2018. Since then, 74 shops were shuttered, with liquidation sales closing doors for good. All locations of the chain were closed by September 2022.
Some of the shops involved in National Stores closings are Fallas, Factory 2-U, Weiner’s, Conway, and Anna’s Linens. The stores’ negative profitability was attributed to a down-retail environment and lost revenue from Hurricanes Harvey and Maria. On top of that, there was a data breach that cost the company about $4.4 million.
The Gap has closed hundreds of stores in the past few years. In 2017 alone, it closed 200 Gap and Banana Republic stores. The Gap, Inc., founded in San Francisco in 1969, owns Banana Republic, Old Navy, and Athleta stores, as well as its namesake brand. But the Gap, company-wide, has been sliding into oblivion.
To put it into perspective, the Gap has trailed behind Victoria’s Secret’s loser, L Brands. One ray of hope is the Old Navy brand, which outsells all other Gap store brands. The plan was to separate the company into two publicly traded divisions and Old Navy now exists as its own company.
According to Macroaxis, Ascena Retail had a 42% chance of going into bankruptcy. Ascena Retail covered more retail shops than you might expect. The company owned Justice, Lane Bryant, Ann Taylor, Lou & Grey, LOFT, Dress Barn, Catherine, Cacique, and Maurice stores. All told, they ran 4,500 stores nationally, with shops in Canada and Puerto Rico too.
To help Ascena’s bottom line, the company sold 943 Maurice “value” stores to OpCapita, a London-based private equity, for $300 million. The New Jersey-based company planned to use the proceeds to pay down debt and reinvest in Ascena. This went pear-shaped in 2021, and the brand closed down completely following the world's health crisis.
Alas, Nine West is gone. In 2018 Nine West buckled under its heavy $1.6 billion debt and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The courts approved the sale of its $340 million shoe business to Authentic Brands Group, owner of the Juicy Couture and Aéropostale brands. But, though the storefronts are gone forever, Nine West, which owns brands like Anne Klein and Gloria Vanderbilt, maintained the operation of its jewelry and apparel businesses, including Anne Klein.
It seems the 1970-established shoe manufacturer got swept up in the retail end-times that are decimating malls all over the nation. Due to the bankruptcy proceedings, all 70 Nine West stores were forced to close, but the agreement allowed Nine West wholesale sales to continue, as well as online sales. It’s sad to see one of the best shoe brands ever go by the wayside.
Many moons ago, when across this great nation, retail shopping centers did not yet exist outside of large cities, Americans depended on the new-fangled Sears Catalogue. Sears invented the order-by-mail catalog version of Amazon one hundred and thirty-three years ago. It was in 1886 the company began driving rural general stores out of business. It seems the cycle has gone full circle. Sears is but one in the growing list of retailers struggling to exist.
In fact, as a department store retail chain, it has been clinging to its existence the longest. Blaming Amazon for the Retail Apocalypse beats the alternative reason—the “R” word—a Recession. In October 2018, Sears filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy with $11.3 billion in liabilities and $6.9 billion in assets. At least 200 stores closed. The company also ceased selling its flagship Whirlpool appliances, a product the store carried since 1916.
Like TJ Maxx and Ross, Stein Mart is an off-price retailer that bargain hunters love to haunt. The chain of 290 stores carried brands at value prices and looked for ways to boost sales in order to add value to its bottom line. Surprisingly, in 2018 the store was able to raise sales in spite of the year-end holiday let-down totals.
At around $1 per share (or less), it was either a lucrative investment or a loss into liquidation. The final nail in that retail coffin was the global health crisis of 2020. In August of the same year, the chain store filed for bankruptcy, and all of its branches were closed by October.
Gump’s is gone. Like a gaping void in San Francisco’s vibrant retail center, the flagship store, along with its massive, iconic Buddha sculpture that has greeted customers of Gump’s for 157 years, simply does not exist anymore. Gump’s: Established in 1861, liquidated in 2018. The luxury department store had searched for a buyer to save it, but with no takers, it succumbed to bankruptcy in August of 2018 instead.
The store, which was around during the California Gold Rush and was rebuilt after damage from the 1906 earthquake, closed for good on December 23, 2018. All is lost. In the past, while online and catalog sales were still humming, the website and Gump’s By Mail accumulated north of 75% of its sales. It’s an unusual case. The online competition was not a problem, but it was liquidated anyway after bankruptcy protection fell through. It was a unique store. Gump’s is gone, and it’s irreplaceable.
99¢ Only Stores
What's better than a store that sells various items for one dollar? A store that does the same for LESS than one dollar. One of the first competitors to then-thriving dollar-discount chains, upping the ante to just under a dollar, 99¢ Only Stores opened in 1982. In 2019 they faced elimination by such competition as Dollar Tree and Dollar General.
The competition also came from Walmart and, of course, Amazon. Thankfully, 99¢ Only Stores made it, but financial analysts only give the store a 50% chance of survival. To compete, the store is now offering more products and other perishable grocery items foods.
Whole Foods Market
Ever since 2017, Whole Foods Market has been owned by Amazon. The original Whole Foods Market was established in Austin, Texas, way back in 1980. If you think the 2017 merger has allowed the company some protection from the Retail Apocalypse, you’re probably right.
While Whole Foods accounts for only 3% of the total grocery store market, it’s got the e-commerce Godzilla on its side, which was proven to have protected it quite well. The most significant store closings, however, are of Whole Foods Market’s smaller, lower-priced brand called, 365. All 12 of the 365 stores were closed in 2019.
Founded in 1907, more than a century ago, Neiman Marcus is somehow still around. The exodus from mall shopping to outdoor shopping pavilions has taken its toll on many retailers. Department stores like Sears, JCPenney, Nordstrom, and Macy’s have felt the pinch. Neiman Marcus has not fared much better.
The company has only lost money between 2016-2018. They pointed out that hopes were not too bright under the company’s heavy debt load. Neiman Marcus CEO and President Karen Katz blame decreasing sales on social media and “fast fashion.” Access to fashion shows used to be exclusive, and now anyone can tune in.
Vitamin Shoppe is GNC’s top competitor. For quite a long time, if you needed any vitamins or supplements, this is where you would go. Except no one physically goes anywhere if they can have the product they want sent right to their doorstep.
Both companies are mired in the same retail nightmare. Vitamin Shoppe watched its stock price plummet over 80% between 2015 -2018. Sales slid downward for two years straight. The company’s 2019 outlook included opening ten new stores and closing 60 to 80 underperforming stores. One goal was to increase e-commerce, and in 2018, they increased online sales by almost 19%.
Lowe’s announced its plan to shutter 51 of its big-box hardware stores in December 2018. Of the 51 stores that closed, 20 were located in the U.S. and 31 in Canada. After the closures, Lowe’s still operates over 2,000 locations in the U.S. and Canada. The closings are just part of “building a stronger business,” according to CEO Marvin Ellison. Also, the closures occurred in stores within a ten-mile radius of another Lowe’s store.
Just a little belt-tightening and efficiency improvements. The company implemented an unspecified number of layoffs in August 2019. In total, Lowe’s employs about 300,000 workers. At the end of the day, with Lowe’s recently reporting a lower profit outlook for the future, one can’t help but wonder what else is up their sleeve.
Tops Market is another company that filed for bankruptcy in 2018. Nine months later, the Amherst-based grocery chain came out on top. Its new deal included negotiating employee pensions with unions and cutting interest payments from $80 million to $55 million a year. Closing 10 of its slowest stores was also included.
Competition has not changed. Specialty grocers like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s are not going away anytime soon. Traditional supermarkets like Tops have been struggling against such stores for years. As for the ten stores that closed, Tops found jobs for all 600 employees affected by the store closings.
David’s Bridal is yet another mall shop that has succumbed to massive debt. Last year the company filed for bankruptcy protection, cutting a deal to reduce its debt by over $400 million. The bridal shop was purchased from former owners Clayton, Dubilier & Rice by a group of lenders, including Oaktree Capital and Conshohocken, assuring the stores will continue to operate.
In case you’re wondering why David’s Bridal racked up so much debt, they will tell you. It’s the Millennials' fault. When all else fails, blame the Millennials. Apparently, folks of the marrying demographic, who we call Millennials, have been waiting to get married. Not only that, but when they do opt for marriage, they choose nontraditional styles. The other culprit is online shopping, naturally.
Bebe is another store that has fallen victim to lagging mall traffic. But it has other problems as well. Sales were abysmal. In May 2017, the company announced it was closing all 180 of its retail outlets and liquidating all merchandise. Bebe was able to move sales into the e-tailing marketplace, thus avoiding a bankruptcy filing. Uniquely, Bebe had very little debt plus a good amount of cash. This helped the company get out of its mall leases relatively easily.
They could offer the leaseholders a better deal than the bankruptcy court would have. As far back as 2010, the 1976-established brand appeared to be losing to lackluster. Founder and CEO of the skimpy-sexy Bebe-wear chain, Manny Mashouf, seemed to lose his way and navigated the company in a direction his shoppers abandoned. His ex-wife, Neda Mashouf, left the company as vice chairman in 2008, and things went downhill from there.
Fred’s is a bargain pharmacy that used to give dollar stores and Walmart a run for their money. The Tennessee-based company has been in business for more than seven decades. Recently, CVS purchased Fred’s three specialty pharmacy stores, and they say they have plenty of other non-core assets to sell.
Several hedge fund companies increased their investment in the pharmacy, signaling Fred’s may avert a bankruptcy filing. Royce & Associates, a large institutional investor, picked up almost 2 million shares of Fred’s in the last quarter of 2018. In January 2019, Walgreens purchased 185 of Fred’s 650 retail chains. Next time you go to Fred’s, the sign may read Walgreens instead!
Two days before Kiko filed for bankruptcy, A’GACI slipped over the brink. On January 9, 2018, the trendy-chic fashion apparel company filed to reorganize. For girls and young women (and, yes, millennials who self-identify as female), there is a light at the end of A’GACI’s tunnel. By August 2018, the company reemerged with a plan to maintain business as usual, much to its customers' delight.
Affordable fashion, always on-trend, became available at all 27 of its existing locations. As the chain used to offer 76 brick-and-mortar options, it’s a pretty big hit; however, David Won, A’GACI’s Chief Merchandising Officer, was optimistic.
JCPenney's revenue for 2018 was down significantly. Nine of the closures that year were of its home and furniture locations. JCPenney has been bleeding employees and stores since 2014. No word on how many jobs were lost that year. JCPenney picked up a new CEO last year, Jill Soltau.
Soltau’s efforts to turn the debt-heavy department store chain around include getting out of appliance sales and focusing on apparel. While appliances have been expected at stores like JCPenney and Sears, the $4.2 billion debt needed to be relieved somehow. Cutting 2,200 jobs and closing a total of 8 stores, as it did in 2018, also lowers costs. After 117 years of retailing, all the king’s horses and all the king’s men may not be able to restructure JCPenney again.
Toys “R” Us
Toys “R” Us is a vastly different story. Chock-full of doom and demise, this company dove off the precipice to a savage end, exploding in balls of fire visible from space. Toys “R” Us is the third largest retail bankruptcy ever. The mega-toy store crashed and burned under $5 billion worth of debt.
It was an ugly ending. Toys “R” Us filed for bankruptcy in 2017. All did not go well. In 2018 the company announced it would close all 800 of its stores, liquidating 33,000 jobs. We’re going to miss that adorable giraffe. In 2021 the two last remaining stores closed their doors.
Guitar Center has been in business since the 1970s. The company’s been building and refurbishing its stores and adding brand-new Guitar Center locations. Most conspicuously, it refurbished its flagship Hollywood store, spending $5 million on the project.
In 2018 there were rumors of Guitar Center falling victim to the bulk-bankruptcy fate of so many other retailers were unfounded. The company’s $1 billion debt triggered the rumors, but it was able to renegotiate those loans. CEO Ron Japinga said there were a few years when the company was “kind of going sideways.” But, the CEO said, “We’ve got a clearer vision of what we’re here for... [and, the company has] really started to turn the corner.”
Plagued by helium shortage and prolonged underinflated earnings, Party City shut many of its stores. The New Jersey-based party store missed on earnings in 2019 and was looking towards the Halloween and holiday season to give it a reason to party.
In May 2019, the company announced plans to shut down 45 stores. CEO of Party City, James M. Harrison, expected a $2.4 billion rise in revenue for 2019; however, we are not sure how that expectation delivered itself. Add the fact that 2020, along with its Halloween and Holiday season, had too many people sitting at home, and you get a pretty bleak picture.
The trendy, upscale-fashion go-to spot for women over 30 made Fortune magazine’s “100 Fastest-Growing Companies” list in 2001. However, Chico’s FAS declined, trading at around $3 on the NYSE. Other stores under the umbrella of Chico’s FAS, Inc. include White House Black Market and Soma. Those stores were acquired in 2003 and 2004, respectively. Chico’s has an endearing founding story. The original shop in Sanibel Island, Florida, opened in 1983. The little hole-in-the-wall featured Mexican folk art and gift items.
Called Folk Art Specialties (the acronym for FAS), the store began selling sweaters which became so popular they outsold all other items. As Chico’s transformed into a women’s clothing boutique, the owner renamed it Chico’s after a friend’s pet parrot. The first chain store opened in Minnesota, and over 1,400 stores later, Chico’s had a good run. Other measures meant to enhance the company’s profitability include partnering with Amazon and QVC to bolster sales. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!
Lands’ End lost its way. It floundered through an ill-fitting partnership with Sears from 2002 to 2014, it was led astray by former president Federica Marchionni into a trendy high-end parlay, and now, Lands’ End is back home in the steady hands of CEO Jerome Griffith.
New CEO Griffith has achieved growth by prioritizing Lands’ End’s e-tailing division and partnering with Amazon (gasp!). But it’s working. By the end of 2018, Lands’ End reported six straight quarters of sales growth under Griffith’s leadership. The plan was to open up to 60 new stores by 2022 and raise sales by $2 billion.
A few years back, Moody’s adjusted Bluestem Brands' rating outlook from stable to negative. In 2019 the company was “streamlining” its business. To that end, the company shed six of its thirteen brands. Those laggards include Bedford Fair, Gold Violin, Norm Thompson, Sahalie, The Tog Shop, and Winter Silks.
In exchange, the company focuses on its core brands: Appleseed’s, Blair, Drapers & Damon’s, Haband, and Old Pueblo Trader. According to Lisa Gavales, CEO of Bluestem Brands, “We believe that increased focus in our most productive brands will enable us to drive future sales growth and sustained profitability for not only the Orchard Portfolio but Bluestem as a whole.”
Southeastern Grocers filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in March of 2018, but it wasn’t the first time. By 2010 the company survived its first bankruptcy filing. As one of America’s largest private companies, it runs BI-LO, Harveys, Fresco y Más, and Winn-Dixie grocery stores, with most of its stores located in the southeastern states, as the name implies.
However, the company formerly went by the name B-Lo Holdings until a 2013 restructuring move changed the Jacksonville, Florida-based company to Southeastern Grocers. As it emerges from its second bankruptcy filing, store closures are a big part of the company’s financial restructuring.
Foot Locker, another victim of the ongoing ghost-town effect on malls, closed 110 stores in 2018. The Manhattan-based company reported a $49 million net loss that year and scrambled to stop the bleeding by slashing stores.
In sharp contrast to 2018, Foot Locker beat its earnings goals by double in 2019. Billed as a miraculous turnaround, the company saw a 2% rise over 2018, defying the onslaught of the mall-based Retail Apocalypse. The company, founded in 1974 by Woolworth and Kinney Shoes, operates in 28 nations around the world with over 3,000 locations. Its first store opened in California at the Puente Hills Mall. It’s still open today.
Abercrombie & Fitch
In its heyday, Abercrombie & Fitch epitomized the brand appeal the under-30 crowd longed to don. Since then, A&F seems to have met its descent toward “just okay.” In all, 475 A&F stores have shut their doors in the past eight years. The closures include Hollister, a brand A&F owns. The massive downsizing of stores and square footage extends to a new growth model. After closing 40 standard stores, 40 new, smaller, “more intimate” stores and kiosks opened.
The store closure announcement followed a disappointing sales growth and future sales outlook report. The company owns 850 stores throughout North America, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Of those, the Hollister four-story mega-store in New York’s SoHo neighborhood is being closed. It’s not the only flagship store scheduled for closure. The Hong Kong store is slated to be gone, as well as the large A&F flagship stores in Milan, Fukuoka, Japan, and Copenhagen. According to Forbes, CFO Scott Lipsky said that the remaining 15 flagship stores burden financial results. Bigger is not always better now that e-tail is in ascendance.
Ah, Build-A-Bear. The mall shop was established for no other reason than to ensnare unwitting parents, who are just minding their business trying to get some shopping done, into paying an absurd amount of cash for a stuffed animal. Imagine the disappointment when build-a-bear’s fourth-quarter earnings took a dump.
CEO Sharon Price John said the company will have to close 30 stores. The plush bear brand was brought into Walmart locations because Walmart-shopping parents can surely afford to toss a percentage of their hard-earned paychecks into a completely useless product. And it’s not just Walmart. FAO Schwarz in NYC even allowed the brand within its doors.
BKH Acquisition Corp.
BKH Acquisition Corp. owns and operates over 100 Burger King fast food diners in Puerto Rico. A BKH Subsidiary, Puerto Rico-based Caribbean Restaurants, is responsible for the day-to-day operations. In 2017, BKH Acquisition Corp. found its financial rating lowered due to lower poor sales and challenging economic conditions in Puerto Rico.
Their malaise was brought on, in part, by Hurricane Maria. BKH seems to be recovering somewhat. Its financial rating was brought up to a CCC+ from a CCC- in the middle of 2018. The rating change was a result of Acquisition Corp. closing on a new term loan for debt. With a lower risk for default, the company’s negative risk factors were thereby lowered.
The Retail Apocalypse stretched back to 2017, but Office Depot’s financial woes stretched back even further. Competition to sell bulk office supplies has been fierce due to competitors like Costco and Staples and because of the technological shift, which has lowered the demand for paper-based office products. It got so bad that Office Depot hoped Staples would buy them out in 2015. The acquisition didn’t pass antitrust muster, and Office Depot looked elsewhere for help.
So, finally, by 2016, despite the Staples acquisition falling through, Office Depot began to pull a profit. This occurred ever since a 2013 merge with OfficeMax and other reshuffling was put into place. For instance, Office Depot closed 400 stores in 2016 and has moved toward service-based products like their new BizBox platform available since the new CompuCom acquisition.
Stage Stores is another company that has tumbled right off the stock market. In June 2018, the NYSE notified the company of its noncompliance as its share had been trading at less than one dollar for over 30 consecutive days. That sounds like a harsh blow to the founders.
The full-size department store, on par with chains like Macy’s and JC Penney, also operates under Bealls, Palais Royal, Peebles, Gordmans, and Goody’s brands. Stage Stores transitioned a conversion to Gordmans. The off-price Gordmans stores outsold all other brands, Stage Stores included. Over 70 Stage Stores were converted to Gordmans in 2019.
FullBeauty Brands Inc.
FullBeauty holds the bankruptcy crown. The company fell into bankruptcy in February 2019, filing for Chapter 11 protection. It broke the record for the fastest U.S. bankruptcy resolution ever. Like ripping off the band-aid, FullBeauty cut more than $1 billion in debt to $900 million.
FullBeauty Brands is a plus-size specialty vendor that sells men’s and women’s clothing. Some of its catalogs are Woman Within, Jessica London, Ellos, KingSize, and fullbeauty.com. Since it’s a mail-order and online company, bankruptcy proceedings were less complicated without physical stores to deal with. In October 2015, FullBeauty Brands Inc. was purchased by British private equity firm Apax Partners. It’s now shared with the above partners as well as Charlesbank Capital.
In the biblical version of the apocalypse, some will be saved while others are eternally doomed. As for the fate of Charlotte Russe, its judgment came down swiftly and decisively in February 2019. A liquidator firm won an auction in the bankruptcy court, which allowed it to swallow the young lady's clothing store’s $160 million worth of inventory and all its assets whole.
Liquidation sales signs were immediately posted as the firm, SB360 Capital Partners, conducted “going out of business” sales. There were 560 shops nationwide and in Puerto Rico. Charlotte Russe was founded by Lawrence Merchandising in 1975 with one store in Carlsbad near San Diego. By 2009 the chain had been acquired by a private equity firm, Advent International.
Established in 1898, Bon-Ton department stores survived WWI and WWII, but not the invention of internet shopping. In fact, during WWI and through the Roaring Twenties, Bon-Ton was in its heyday. In 2018, the York, Pennsylvania-based company closed its 250 stores, liquidated its merchandise, and left vacant large department store-sized leases. It was the largest retail bankruptcy of the year.
Bon-Ton, the name derived from a British term of the day, of French origin, with references to proper manners and high society, may once again don storefronts. The company also operated under the names Bergner’s, Boston Store, Carson’s, Elder-Beerman, Herberger’s, and Younkers. It’s not easy to make it in retail these days but with the help of large venture capital firms and those plans to relaunch the store, who knows what will happen.
The good news is Kmart survived a major bankruptcy. The super discount store emerged from bankruptcy just this year, but it is battered and beaten, having lost thousands of stores before and during the Retail Apocalypse. But 2018 wasn’t the store’s first brush with bankruptcy.
Kmart also filed for Chapter 11 in 2002. Since the more recent bankruptcy in 2018, the chain has been reduced to a measly 200 locations, and there is more to come. During the first filing, the chain collapsed and merged with Sears. The recent announcement of store closings affects both stores, and about 26 stores in total disappeared.
The brick-and-mortar vitamin industry has been floundering for years. Vitamin Shoppe is currently looking for a turnaround, and Vitamin World filed for bankruptcy in 2017. Vitamin and supplement retail shop General Nutrition Centers (GNC), so far, has avoided bankruptcy court, yet it has been struggling against an oppressive $1.38 billion in long-term debt. Because of the massive owe, its share price sunk 66% in 2017 as investors expressed a wane in confidence.
To recover profit, in 2018, GNC closed 200 stores, and it secured an investment from a Chinese company. As part of the plan, GNC officials received $100 million from Harbin Pharmaceutical Group, a Chinese pharmaceutical giant. In exchange, the Chinese company procured 100,000 shares of GNC stock for just over $4, which, incidentally, has been trading in the neighborhood of $2 to $3 per share.
The CVS pharmacy empire was comprised of over 9,900 stores making it the largest pharmacy chain in the U.S. In 2019, CVS announced plans to shutter 46 underperforming CVS stores across 16 states. Gone forever are four CVS stores in California, four in Florida, seven in Illinois, and eight in Texas. It’s a small percentage of the company’s properties.
CVS is also slowing its growth by adding 300 stores per year. Growing stores is less important as CVS has moved toward a larger healthcare aspect to its existing business by remodeling stores into what they call HealthHUBs. Compared with Walgreens, which closed 200 stores in 2019, CVS’ 46 store closings are a relatively minor issue.
This big box pet supplies retailer was plagued by the common culprits: stiff competition and too much debt. To tackle online sales competition, PetSmart Inc. went even deeper into debt. The company purchased its online competitor, e-tailer site Chewy, for $3.35 billion. That particular acquisition was the most expensive online retail store purchase in history.
PetSmart is the world’s largest brick-and-mortar pet supply store. In all, 1,600 stores and 55,000 employees make up the chain that operates throughout the United States and Canada. Also, attending the mammoth pet care emporium is an equally massive debt to the tune of $8.1 billion. It has been a rough few years (no pun intended).
Rockport is a retail chain that declared bankruptcy in 2018. Do not fear. Uber-comfy Rockport shoes still exist. The original 1971 founder and owner of Rockport, the Katz family, sold the brand to Reebok in 1986, which was later passed off to the German athletic shoe group Adidas, along with the parent company, Reebok. In 2015, Adidas handed New Balance and Berkshire Partners the Rockport brand. There it became the Rockport Group.
In 2017, Crescent Capital Group acquired the Rockport Group from Berkshire. This was followed by the requisite bankruptcy a year later. The Rockport Group filed with $287 million in debt. Charlesbank Capital Partners, another private equity firm, purchased it out of bankruptcy in May of 2018 for $150 million. Out of the rubble, all 60 of Rockport's brick-and-mortar locations have gone by the wayside.