Retail bankruptcies may hit a painful high-water mark in 2020. Multiple analysts have noted filings are likely to reach their highest number in a decade. Some weeks during the summer brought multiple filings by major names in the industry.
In a kind of chorus, the cohort of filers have pointed to the tribulations brought by COVID-19 in explaining their predicaments, citing massive revenue drops from store closures, pressure from landlords, and white-hot cash burn.
Many of them, though, entered the year in a vulnerable state and may have filed anyway. Filings have been elevated since 2016, when declines in mall traffic, e-commerce penetration, market share theft by discounters and mass merchants, and a host of other issues began combining to tip into Chapter 11 those retailers with the highest debt levels and worst sales trends.
Some of the biggest names to enter Chapter 11 this year have made numerous appearances on Retail Dive’s past bankruptcy watch lists. That includes J. Crew and Neiman Marcus, which, until they filed, appeared on every past watch list Retail Dive has published since it began doing so in the summer of 2017. JCPenney, one of the largest bankruptcies this year in terms of company revenue, has appeared on every watch list since 2018.
Companies with stressed balance sheets and poor sales trends came into 2020 with little room for error and then got clobbered by a massive, unprecedented event, one that took its toll even on relatively healthy companies.
Nor is the bloodletting over. Bankruptcies have largely slowed as the industry heads into the holiday season. But depending how the holidays shake out, 2021 could bring another wave… Retail Dive