Approximately 53 companies went bankrupt in 2019. So far, the count for 2020 is upwards of 80.
This corporate carnage is, of course, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic and its death grip on business, shopping, spending and earning. While clothing and home goods have been hit hard, companies have been hitting rock bottom across industries. Hollywood, restaurants and grocery, air travel, gyms, newspapers, education, energy, oil, gas, technology, and, ironically, even the medical field have all lost players to the pandemic since its onset in early March.
While bankruptcy sounds scary, few of the recent companies who’ve done so will actually go the way of Blockbuster (RIP). While a handful of the recent victims like Pier 1 Imports and Stein Mart will be closing their doors for good, most of the recent companies that have filed are simply using the Chapter 11 process to restructure debt and negotiate new terms with creditors. Some, like J. Crew and Neiman Marcus, which will exit bankruptcy later this month with generous loans and $4 billion dollars debt shed, are coming out on the other side better than they’ve been in years.
Still, it’s been a bloody few months and some of the recent bankruptcies will shape their industries. Here are all the major companies that have gone bankrupt during the pandemic.
1. J. Crew
Home of the preppy basic, J. Crew was the pandemic’s first retail casualty. They filed on May 4, after Covid-19 forced them to shelve plans to pay off debt from their 2011 leveraged buyout with an initial public offering on Madewell. However, the company always saw Chapter 11 as a step towards the future. In the initial announcement, J. Crew’s chief executive called the bankruptcy “a critical milestone” for the store which plans to “serve customers for years to come.”
After closing only about a dozen stores, the company successfully exited bankruptcy last week with $400 million asset-based lending credit. What they do have to worry about is their popularity. The company’s Facebook followers have been on a slow but consistent decline all year, dropping by 10,000 since January.
2. Dean & Deluca
Yuppies couldn’t save them. Maybe because nobody knows what a yuppie is anymore. Dean & Deluca filed for bankruptcy on April 1. The company had already shuttered all their stores by fall of 2019, and had been on the rocks since 2014, when they were purchased by Thai conglomerate Pace Development. Despite this, Pace says they’re hoping to restructure debt and eventually reopen stores.
“Dean & Deluca over expanded and lost what made them special,” distressed debt experty Adam Stein Sapir told The New York Post in July. “But if they can bring it back to its former glory with a smaller footprint, it has a lot of potential.”
After the travel industry dried up this spring during lockdown, Hertz filed for bankruptcy on May 22 when it failed to make a $400 million payment to lenders. More specifically as CNBC points out, the decline in business travel and the demand for the used cars Hertz cycles out of its fleet and sells off each year hit them hard. Their bankruptcy process has been turbulent, between an attempt to sell off $500 million in worthless stock, a judge rejecting bankruptcy bonuses for execs and the company selling off nearly half their fleet. Most recently, they’re on the hunt for a $1.5 million loan. Best of luck to them!
4. Neiman Marcus
Neiman Marcus is currently plotting their comeback after shedding the majority of their $5 billion debt load through a dramatic bankruptcy proceeding. The bankruptcy ended with criminal charges for a hedge fund manager who tried to sabotage the deal which kicked off on May 7. The department store emerges with more than a billion dollars in bankruptcy loans, but it will still have to cope with the pandemic same downward trends for department store retail that sent it to Chapter 11.
“The company has restructured itself, which is great, but it’s going to have to navigate a really difficult six months to a year ahead because of the pandemic environment,” Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData’s retail division, told Vogue.
5. JC Penney
When JC Penney went bankrupt on May 15, Forbes insisted the filing be blamed on the pandemic, instead dubbing it the result of the 118-year-old store’s “decades-long struggle to reinvent itself.” However, as a part of a wave of REITs buying their own failing tenants out of bankruptcy, mall owners Simon Property Group and Brookfield Property Partners are teaming up to save JC Penney from liquidation (and the disappearance of 70,000 retail jobs). JC Penney is waiting on approval from a judge for the deal and are hoping to emerge before the holiday season. It bodes well for them that bankruptcy hasn’t scared off their fans: JC Penney currently sits at its highest-ever Facebook following of 5.59 million.
6. Le Pain Quotidien
Upscale bakery chain Le Pain Quotidien had been struggling for years, according to Eater, thanks to competition from fast casual competitors like Dig Inn and Pret a Manger. Whey declared bankruptcy on May 27 after being forced to close all their locations and laying off their 2,500 employees due to the pandemic, it was revealed that the bakery had planned to file for Chapter 11 before anyone had heard of Covid-19. Concurrent with their filing, LPQ revealed it had sold its 98 US stores to New York food conglomerate Aurify, which also operates Melt Shop, Fields Good Chicken, and NYC’s cluster of Five Guys for $3 million. According to their website, Le Pain Quotidien has reopened some locations on the West coast and in New York City.
7. Maison Kayser
Aurify also recently scooped beloved NYC-by-way-of-Paris bakery Maison Kayser out of bankruptcy. The store had been struggling after a failed national expansion push prior to the pandemic, but was pushed over the edge after it had to shutter 800 stores and furlough 800 employees at the beginning of a pandemic (upon declaring bankruptcy, it officially laid off the majority of its employees). Maison Kayser stores remain closed and it's unclear how many of their 100-plus stores across 22 states Aurify plans to reopen.
Vitamin slingers GNC filed for bankruptcy on June 24 with $900 million in debt, and another $111 million in unsecured liabilities. They also announced plans to close 1,200 stores out of its sprawling 2,500 across the US. The vitamin and muscle supplement sales are booming — CNBC attributes GNC’s troubles to competition from Walmart, Amazon, Target, and grocery store chains. Based on LinkedIn, GNC is down nearly 300 employees since the end of March. However, GNC is getting out of the mess. Despite national security concerns raised by Republicans, judges recently cleared GNC’s sale to their biggest investor, Chinese company Harbin Pharmaceutical group, which plans to expand their online sales and downsize their brick and mortar footprint.
9. Cirque du Soleil
The whole theatre and entertainment industry was wrecked by the pandemic this spring, but Cirque du Soleil was pushed over the edge. The Montreal-based circus filed for bankruptcy on June 29, saying, “We have no choice but to take a pause for a little while.” In mid-July, they reached a purchase deal with creditors to help attract a buyer. While they wait, the production has laid off 95% of its employees, including all performers.
10. Pier 1 Imports
Middle-aged lovers of lava lamps and wicker side tables were devastated when Pier 1 imports announced in May that it was bankrupt and closing all stores. Technically, the home goods store filed for bankruptcy in February after years of losing customers to Wayfair, Amazon and the like. But the pandemic dashed its hopes of merely hunkering down for a while to find a buyer. Said mourners have the chance to stock up at its liquidation fire sales: the retailer hopes to be officially closed by October. The company’s remaining 6,600 employees will be job hunting this Fall.
Despite the entire nation being stuck at home with every incentive to upgrade their linens, cookware and desk spaces, Japanese emporium Muji struggled thanks to their emphasis on brick and-mortar shopping. International conglomerate Ryohin Keikaku shuttered all of California’s Muji stores after its US branch filed for bankruptcy on July 12. It appears the rest of its American stores will remain operational. The company promised the rest of its stores would be unaffected (the majority of its locations are Europe and Asia) and said it simply plans to use “the court-supervised Chapter 11 process to navigate the impacts of Covid-19 on brick-and-mortar retail.”
12. Ascena (Loft, Ann Taylor, Lane Bryant)
Ascena Retail Group, operator of Loft, Ann Taylor, Lane Bryant, Lou & Gray, Justice, and Cacique, filed for bankruptcy on July 23. They’re expected to exit Chapter 11 proceedings with the support of creditors before Thanksgiving, but the retailer that came to dominate “mallcore” fashion will reduce their 3,000 pre-Covid-19 store fleet to approximately 1,300 nationwide and offload plus-size brand Catherines to plus-size conglomerate FullBeauty Brands.
13. Brooks Brothers
With stockbrokers working in sweats and Fifth Avenue shuttered, Brooks Brothers filed for bankruptcy on July 8. By mid-August, the nation’s oldest apparel company had new owners. Authentic Brands Group and JC Penney’s new tethers Simon Property Group have formed a venture called Sparc Group that has acquired the suit supplier for $325 million. (The group has also picked up Lucky Brands, Forever 21, and Nautica). As part of the agreement, 125 Brooks Brothers stores will remain open. People have less reason than ever to put on a suit, but brand loyalty might be the company's saving grace. Brooks Brothers’ Facebook following has stayed steady throughout the turmoil at its peak of 1.05 million likes.
14. Lucky Brand
Lucky Brand has also been snatched up by Authentic Brands Group and Simon Property co-venture Sparc after filing for bankruptcy on July 6. Sparc believes it can reinvent the iconic 2000s denim retailer for which it paid $140.1 million. Sparc will take over Lucky’s licensing, operations, and distribution, keeping its 175 North American stores open.
15. Lord & Taylor
Lord & Taylor is one of the unlucky ones. After filing for bankruptcy on August 2 and failing to find a new owner when parent firm clothing rental company Le Tote filed for bankruptcy three weeks earlier, the 200-year-old retailer is closing down for good. Initially, the luxury department store promised to keep 14 of their 38 stores open. But a week later, they confirmed full liquidation.
"While we are still entertaining various opportunities, we believe it is prudent to simultaneously put the remainder of the stores into liquidation to maximize value of inventory for the estate while pursuing options for the company's brands," Ed Kremer, Lord & Taylor's chief restructuring officer said in a statement, according to CNN.
16. Century 21
They made it through 9/11 with their flagship store adjacent to the twin towers, but Century 21 couldn’t survive coronavirus. The iconic New York City discount oasis filed for bankruptcy on September 12 and announced it would be closing all locations and proceeding with liquidating.
17. Sur La Table
Despite the quarantine baking craze, upscale kitchenware brand Sur La Table joined the bankruptcy club on May 19 and announced plans to close 56 of its 121 stores. The company particularly suffered from shutting down its in-person cooking classes, according to RetailDive. In mid-August, Marquee Brands and CSC Generation, which own Martha Stewart and Emeril Lagasse’s brands as well as BCBG Max Azria, bought the company out of bankruptcy for $90 million. The duo still plan to shut down half of Sur La Table’s stores, but RetailDive says the brand is poised for a comeback, especially given the uptick in home cooking, once retail gets back on its feet.
18. Tailored Brands (Jos A. Bank, Men's Wearhouse, etc.)
Tailored Brands couldn’t have predicted the need for professional attire would dry up in 2020. As such, the owner of Jos. A Bank, Men’s Wearhouse, Moores and other office wear brands filed for bankruptcy on August 3. They’ve crafted a plan to reduce their debt by $630 million with the support of creditors, which includes closing up to 500 of its 1,400 stores in North America.
19. Stein Mart
Discount box store Stein Mart filed for bankruptcy on August 12, and over the following week revealed its plan to close all of its 300 stores by the end of 2020. The company previously employed 8,000 people. Its liquidation sales will run throughout the fall.
20. True Religion
Like their peers Lucky and G-Star Raw, True Religion is a hallmark of an earlier era of denim. They felt the consequences when they filed for their second bankruptcy in three years on April 13. In 2017, the brand used Chapter 11 to shed more than $350 million in debt as they lost sales to competitors like Levi’s and Madewell, according to Forbes. Then this Spring, they returned to bankruptcy court to negotiate the pandemic’s closure of their brick and mortar stores. Unlike Lucky, they’ve had no such luck finding a buyer.
Here are the rest of the companies that filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy during the pandemic. We will continue to update this list.
22. California Pizza Kitchen
23. Modell’s Sporting Goods
24. G-Star Raw
25. Apex Parks
26. FoodFirst Global Holdings (Bravo Cucina Italiano and Brio Tuscan Grille)
27. CMX Cinemas
28. Gold’s Gym
29. Rubie’s Costume COmpany
30. Sage Stores (Bealls, Goody’s Palais Roayl, Peebles, Gordman’s, Stag Parent)
31. Tuesday Morning
32. 24 Hour Fitness
33. CEC Entertainment (Chuck E. Cheese)
34. RTW Retailwinds (New York & Company)
35. Town Sports International (New York Sports Club, Boston Sports Club)
36. Advantage Rent A Car
38. Art Van Furniture
40. Bar Louis
41. Mood Media
42. NPC International
43. BJ Services
44. Bluestem Brands
45. Borden Dairy
46. Briggs & Stratton
47. Centric Brands (Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein)
48. Chesapeake Energy
51. Earth Fare
52. Fairway Market
53. McDermott International
54. Figs & Olive
55. Helios and Matheson
56. J. Hilburn
59. Latam Airlines
61. Lucky’s Market
62. Maines Paper & Food Store
63. Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals
65. Nygard Entities
66. Old Time Pottery
67. One Web
68. The Paper Store
70. Pyxus International
71. Quorum Health
72. Remington Outdoor Company
75. Speedcast International
77. Vision Group Holdings
80. Pyxus International
81. Remington Outdoor Company
About the Data:
Thinknum tracks companies using the information they post online, jobs, social and web traffic, product sales, and app ratings, and creates data sets that measure factors like hiring, revenue, and foot traffic. Data sets may not be fully comprehensive (they only account for what is available on the web), but they can be used to gauge performance factors like staffing and sales.