By Phil Wahba
August 31, 2016

Bankrupt teen clothing retailer Aéropostale could yet live another day.

A consortium of bidders including the two largest U.S. mall owners Simon Property Group (spg) and General Growth Properties (ggp) has placed a late “going concern” bid for Aéropostale assets that would keep the chain alive with a much reduced footprint of 229 stores, according to a federal bankruptcy court filing.

While the filing in Manhattan court did not specify the amount of the bid, the Wall Street Journal reported the offer was for $243.3 million. The retailer struggled with dwindling sales for years as its fashions fell out of style and its younger shoppers turned to stores like Forever 21, Uniqlo, and H&M, which eschew logos and turn their assortment around more often. The company filed for bankruptcy protection in May

Simon and GGP, two of Aéropostale’s two largest landlords, were joined in the bid by Authentic Brands, and liquidators Gordon Brothers Retail Partners and Hilco Merchant Resources. The bid comes a few days after it seemed that Aéropostale’s fate was sealed and that it would not avoid liquidation.

According to the filing, if the consortium doesn’t win the auction, Hilco and Gordon Brothers and Authentic Brands Group will bid on the chain’s merchandise and intellectual property in a liquidation sale.

If Aéropostale does get salvaged, it will be a much reduced retailer. At its peak, the chain had 800 stores. It’s easy to see why GGP and Simon would want to save the best retailer’s locations. Mall traffic is sluggish at many locations, and the developers could do without having more vacancies to fill coming on the heels of so many other retail bankruptcies: American Apparel, Wet Seal, Quicksilver, Pacific Sunwear, Sports Authority, and Vestis Retail (parent of Eastern Mountain Sports) are among the chains to seek bankruptcy protection from the courts in the last 18 months.

The bankruptcy has been filled with intrigue: Aéropostale has accused lender Sycamore Partners of using a supplier it controlled to drive it into bankruptcy and then buy it at a low price in an auction. But last week, the judge overseeing the case rejected that claim and Sycamore could make a bid in the form of $150 million in debt it is owed rather than cash.

Aéropostale was once a Macy’s private brand. It was later sold off and went public in 2002. After years of popularity, the retailer’s sales have been in freefall since 2010, shrinking more than 40% to $1.5 billion last year. Rival Abercrombie & Fitch (and) has also struggled with sales declines, albeit less dramatic ones, while American Eagle Outfitters (aeo) is enjoying a comeback.

 

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