And yet another retailer has fallen victim to its inability to adjust to changing consumer tastes.
True Religion, a once popular denim brand, on Wednesday said it was seeking bankruptcy court protection to slash its debt and fix its ailing business, becoming the 23rd retailer or consumer-oriented company to do so this calendar year, according to data compiled for Fortune by S&P Global Market Intelligence. The retail sector is on pace for a record number of bankruptcies.
True Religion Chief Executive John Ermatinger said in a statement that the restructuring deal will allow True Religion to keep stores open even as it focuses on building up its e-commerce. What’s more, the company’s plan, subject to court approval, calls for reducing its debt by three-quarters to $535 million, the company said it would use bankruptcy laws to close or consolidate underperforming stores and, where possible, renegotiate leases with landlords. Still, it is likely True Religion will close stores. The 15 year-old brand had sales of $369.5 million in revenue in its most recent fiscal year but sales have been in decline for some years.
Ermatinger can take solace knowing he has plenty of company: the bankruptcy filing comes at a difficult time for many retailers, particularly mall-based apparel stores. In the last two years, brands like American Apparel, Quiksilver, Wet Seal, Nasty Gal and Pacific Sunwear have filed for bankruptcy protection. Last month, Papaya Clothing joined those ranks.
The abundance of options, the fickleness of young shoppers, the dwindling popularity of many malls and the faster production cycle of fast-fashion chains like H&M and Forever 21 have taken a heavy toll on such retailers. Elsewhere, other retailers have been unable to update their assortment and business model to reflect Amazon.com’s (AMZN) growing dominance in some areas. Dwindling sales and inflated stores fleets have combined to put many of them out of business.
“Retail’s troubles are manifold, and the diagnosis is different in each struggling company’s case, but it is widely agreed that the U.S. is over-stored and that the solution for flat or declining in-store sales resides to a significant degree online, where the most sales growth is now taking place,” S&P Global Market Intelligence said in an article earlier this year. And the bloodbath won’t end soon: this winter, a report by Moody’s Investors Service found that debt maturities were on their way to record levels in the next five years.
Here is a list of the major 2017 retail bankruptcies so far:
- The Limited
Women’s apparel chain The Limited filed for bankruptcy protection in January, announcing it would close all 250 of its stores across the United States but remain open as an online business, citing the challenges facing mall-based retail.
- Wet Seal
The surfing flavored chain filed for bankruptcy for the second time this winter, closing its remaining 171 stores and liquidating its business, an ignominious end to a once popular brand.
- Eastern Outfitters
Eastern Outfitters, the parent of discount chain Bob’s Stores and outdoor retailer Eastern Mountain Sports, filed in February, felled by growing competition in the sporting goods arena that put The Sports Authority out of business the year before.
- BCBG Max Azria
BCBG Max Azria Group filed for bankruptcy protection, choked by a huge debt load.
The electronics retailer was unable to adjust to the Amazon era, unlike rival Best Buy (BBY). What’s more, hhgregg faced pressure in home furnishings and appliances, the other big chunk of its business. After seeking bankruptcy court protection in the winter, Hhgregg later shut down all its stores, with the likes of Best Buy, Sears and J.C. Penney (JCP) looking to win some of the market share.
- Radio Shack
The electronics chain RadioShack Corp filed for bankruptcy in March for the second time in a little over two years, faced with a challenging retail environment for its category and a disappointing partnership with wireless provider Sprint Corp.
- Gander Mountain
The outdoor and sporting goods retailer paid a price for overly aggressive expansion, landing in bankruptcy court in March. Two months later, Camping World Holdings, an Illinois-based network of RV-centric retail locations and outdoor-related services, won Gander Mountain in a court auction and said it would keep open 70 of Gander’s stores.
In early April, Payless ShoeSource confirmed that it would seek bankruptcy court protection as it looked to unload some crippling debt and close 400 stores in the hopes of making another go of it as a leaner store chain. The retailer has struggled to compete with the likes of DSW (DSW) and TJX’s (TAX) T.J. Maxx.
The teen focused chain started closing 400 stores in April before filing for bankruptcy the following month.
Last month, the children’s wear company sought bankruptcy protection to lower its debt by $900 million and close hundreds of stores. Gymboree has had trouble competing with rivals like The Children’s Place, Carter’s and even Target.
Other retailers to seek bankruptcy protection in 2017 so far include: Fabric Avenue, Vanity Shop of Grand Forks, Michigan Sporting Goods Distributors, Marbles Holdings, Pinnacle Auto Lease, among others.