The year 2020 will be remembered for the breathtaking pace of bankruptcies across fashion and retail.
The industry saw at least 48 retail and fashion bankruptcies—including three mall owners—in the U.S. and overseas. Many firms were already struggling before the pandemic hit, and were barely able to keep their operations afloat. With little to no reserves, these companies just didn’t have the ability to withstand any additional hits to their cash flow. And the lack of cash flow was the one thing that was common to all when local governments mandated that nonessential retailers shut down temporarily to help curb the spread of the virus. But even when stores began to reopen, many consumers either stayed away due to fear or social distancing protocols. And while online shopping became the go-to strategy, that became a double-edged sword in retail. Many companies never made the required digital investments in their online platforms, and even for those that did, online presented lower margins on higher fulfillment costs.
These are the major retailers and fashion brands that went bankrupt in 2020.
When: Jan. 20
Backstory: The U.K. department store declared insolvency in January and a month later, it shuttered 12 of its 23 locations. However, the chain couldn’t find a buyer and the coronavirus outbreak forced the remaining 11 locations closed.
Pier 1 Imports
When: Feb. 17
Backstory: The home goods retailer liquidated operations, closing 500 stores in the process, before Retail Ecommerce Ventures (REV) acquired its IP and related assets for $31 million with a relaunch in mind.
Modell’s Sporting Goods
When: March 11
Backstory: Covid-19 disrupted Modell’s liquidation plans after filing for bankruptcy. REV, which also owns the Dressbarn and RadioShack nameplates, acquired Modell’s for $3.6 million.
Laura Ashley Holdings
When: March 17
Backstory: The company collapsed into administration following the U.K.’s coronavirus store closures. Gordon Brothers purchased its IP and similar assets in April, and a Next Plc license will revive the brand’s home products.
When: March 27
Backstory: Esprit said several German subsidiaries had applied for Protective Shield Proceedings under German law to restructure liabilities and long-term leases.
Galeria Karstadt Kaufhof
When: April 1
Backstory: Germany’s biggest department store retailer filed for administrative insolvency. The company, which closed 40 of its 172 stores, exited insolvency proceedings on Sept. 30.
When: April 9
Backstory: This U.K. department store retailer fell into administration and liquidated its Irish stores. With a full liquidation on the horizon, suitors like Michael Ashley and Authentic Brands Group are said to be mulling a deal.
When: April 13
Backstory: The denim brand had emerged from Chapter 11 proceedings four months later. The April filing was a so-called Chapter 22, its second filing after its first tour of bankruptcy court in 2017.
Oasis and Warehouse
When: April 15
Backstory: Another early victim of the coronavirus, the U.K. high fashion brands fell into administration. Hilco Capital agreed to buy its intellectual property assets, but two months later, Boohoo bought assets including IP.
When: May 1
Backstory: Men’s custom clothier J. Hilburn was one of the first retailers to emerge from Chapter 11, acquired by The Apparel Group (TAG), its largest trade vendor.
J. Crew Group
When: May 4
Backstory: Despite a huge debt load stemming from a leveraged buyout, the specialty chain exited Chapter 22 on Sept. 10, after being taken over by its lender and converting $1.6 billion of secured debt into equity.
When: May 6
Backstory: The rock ‘n’ roll menswear brand was one of the early victims of the pandemic, but it reached an agreement with majority owner and investor Lion Capital to sell the business to it as part a reorganization.
Neiman Marcus Group
When: May 7
Backstory: The luxury department store had been struggling with a heavy debt load on its balance sheet after two leveraged buyouts. It emerged from bankruptcy in September, wiping out nearly $4 billion in pre-petition debt.
When: May 7
Backstory: The Canadian footwear retailer filed for bankruptcy in Canada, the U.S. and Switzerland. Bushell Investment Group bought the U.K. arm, and will keep all 11 stores and e-commerce open.
When: May 11
Backstory: The struggling retailer seemed to have found a new model when switching over to the Gordmans off-price concept, but Covid-19 thwarted those plans. The Chapter 11 filing helped it conduct an orderly wind down.
When: May 15
Backstory: Penney’s survived bankruptcy court through sheer grit, thanks to the help of bankruptcy attorneys, lenders and its two largest mall landlords, Simon Property Group and Brookfield Asset Management, who needed the retailer to stay in business and keep its stores open.
When: May 18
Backstory: In February, the Zac Posen brand sold to Centric Brands, which quickly went bankrupt as Covid-19 “constrained” cash flow. Centric exited Chapter 11 in October, with lenders holding equity stakes.
DVF Studio U.K.
When: May 24
Backstory: DVF Studio U.K. went into administration after its flagship store closed amid Covid-19. DVF Studio’s parent company, DVF Studio LLC, closed 18 stores, leaving a single store open Manhattan in addition to online.
When: May 27
Backstory: The off-price home discounter closed 230 stores while in bankruptcy, and is expected to emerge before the end of 2020 with 500 locations still open.
Victoria’s Secret U.K.
When: June 5
Backstory: The U.K. arm of Victoria’s Secret fell into administration, but received a new lease on life through a joint venture between L Brands Inc. and Next PLC, with Next the majority owner holding a 51 percent stake. The joint venture will operate VS stores in the U.K. and Ireland. The online operation of VS is still operated by U.S. parent L Brands and will be folded into the joint venture next spring.
When: June 26
Backstory: U.K.’s largest shopping mall owner failed to strike a deal with creditors and collapsed into administration. The company owns and operates 17 shopping malls across the U.K.
When: June 29
Backstory: Seafolly is Australia’s largest swimwear brand. It has 44 stores in its domestic market and 12 locations overseas. The brand was sold back to its original owners.
When: June 30
Backstory: The 66-unit U.K. men’s chain—it also operated five locations in Australia—collapsed into administration in June. Founded in 1898, the brand was sold to Torque Brands.
When: July 3
Backstory: Denim retailer Lucky Brand Dungarees, a fixture at shopping malls, was acquired in August mall landlord Simon Property Group’s Sparc joint venture with brand management firm Authentic Brands Group.
When: July 3
Backstory: The denim brand filed for bankruptcy protection to reassess and restructure its store portfolio. A bankruptcy filing in Australia shut all 57 stores after failing to find a buyer.
When: July 8
Backstory: Troubles at Brooks Brothers had been simmering for years, and the coronavirus store closures didn’t help its cash flow. Sparc—the Simon Property Group and Authentic Brands Group joint venture—offered to buy the brand as a going concern out of Chapter 11 for $305 million.
When: July 10
Backstory: The U.S. arm of Japanese retailer Muji operates 18 doors and is expected to restructure operations to refocus sales online. Known for its minimalist home goods, Muji also sells personalizable apparel.
When: July 13
Backstory: The company, which operates women’s apparel chains under the nameplates New York & Co., Fashion to Figure and Happy x Nature, filed a voluntary Chapter 11 petition. Saadia Group paid $40 million for the New York & Co. and Fashion to Figure nameplates, and will operate them online.
When: July 20
After filing a Chapter 11 petition, the women’s chain, whose stores never reopened after coronavirus shutdowns, was later acquired by Newtimes Group for $12.2 million. The online site was relaunched on Dec. 17.
Ascena Retail Group
When: July 23
Backstory: The company had been struggling for several quarters, and had already sold a majority stake in Maurices and wound down Dress Barn. Covid and mandatory store closures pushed the company into Chapter 11. It sold Catherines to FullBeauty Brands Operations LLC for $40.8 million in September and Justice to Bluestar Alliance for $90 million in November. On Dec. 8, the bankruptcy court gave its approval for Ascena to sell its remaining brands—Ann Taylor, Loft, Lane Bryant and Lou & Grey—to private equity firm Sycamore Partners for $540 million.
When: July 30
Backstory: The Canadian operations of Chico’s FAS filed for bankruptcy in July and it has now exited that market. It had operated four Chico’s stores and six White House Black Market doors.
Lord & Taylor and parent Le Tote
When: Aug. 2
Backstory: The initial plan was to liquidate 19 store while searching for a buyer. It later upped the number of closures to 24, hoping to keep 14 open. Failing to find a buyer, it decided to liquidate and shutter all doors.
When: Aug. 2
Backstory: Too much debt from its $1.8 billion Jos. A. Banks acquisition was exacerbated by a lack of cash flow when Covid-19 temporarily closed stores. The plan was to close up to 500 stores, leaving it with 775 doors. The company exited bankruptcy on Dec. 1.
When: Aug. 12
Backstory: The 281-door department store operator had already let go of most of its employees when it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy court protection. REV purchased its IP for $6.0 million and will relaunch online.
When: Sept. 7
Backstory: German apparel manufacturer Escada SE filed for insolvency in Munich, affecting only its German operations, which had previously gone bankrupt in 2009. There are currently eight stores in operation in Germany.
When: Sept. 10
Backstory: This off-pricer with 13 stores was forced to shut down after insurance providers declined to pay $175 million to protect against business disruptions during the pandemic. The matter is currently in litigation, but any victory would be for the benefit of creditors and will be of no help in saving the chain.
Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust
When: Nov. 1
Backstory: PREIT filed its Chapter 11 petition as a prepackaged plan backed by 95 percent of its voting lenders.
When: Nov. 2
Backstory: One of the first casualty among mall REITS, CBL had signed a restructuring support with certain lenders back in August and finally filed on Nov. 2. The plan is to eliminate $1.5 billion in debt and obligations.
When: Nov. 6
Backstory: The U.S. subsidiary of luxury brand Furla SpA saw wholesale accounts impacted by store closures and a lack of tourism. The company filed its Chapter 11 petition to get rid of leases and lower its debt.
Edinburgh Woollen Mill
When: Nov. 7
Backstory: Edinburgh operates 380 stores in mostly tourist-heavy locations. Homewares retailer Ponden Homes also collapsed into administration as well. Both are part of the Edinburgh Woolen Mill Group.
When: Nov. 12
Backstory: The company opted for a company voluntary arrangement, which gives it a measure of control over restructuring and means most creditors and landlords are on board. It’s the brand’s second insolvency in two years.
When: Nov. 19
Backstory: Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group owner Philip Day was hoping to secure a buyer for the value-focused department store chain. So far, the chain has nabbed a management buyout offer from a senior e-comm executive.
When: Nov. 19
Backstory: Jaeger is also a part of the Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group. There were talks with potential buyers for the business, which also includes the Jacques Vert and Austin Reed brands. Those discussions are said to be ongoing.
When: Nov. 27
Backstory: The U.K. men’s retailer launched a company voluntary arrangement and is in talks to work out deals with landlords and other creditors.
When: Nov. 30
Backstory: The owner of Topshop filed during the U.K. second round of mandatory store closures. Arcadia has about 450 stores in the U.K, and 22 doors overseas. So far there’s no word on new planned store closures.
When: Dec. 2
Backstory: This women’s fashion chain collapsed into administration for the second time in just over a year after its acquisition by value chain Peacock’s. For now, Bonmarché‘s 225 stores remain open.
When: Dec. 3
Backstory: The women’s budget chain filed its Chapter 11 petition to sell the business to TerraMar Capital. The company operated 558 stores at the time of its filing, but had already closed 137 stores last month. Days after its filing, Francesca’s said it would shutter another 97 stores.