Gymboree, Rue21, Payless ShoeSource, Gander Mountain, The Limited. All of them, and others, filed for bankruptcy this year. Stores are dropping like flies and you can never tell who’s going to be next. Or can you?
If you follow credit-rating companies’ risk ratings, you might get an idea. Companies that land on Fitch Ratings’ “bonds of concern” and “loans of concern” watch lists are considered to have a significant risk of default over the next 12 months. They have big debt loads and face factors that could complicate their ability to repay them in the days to come.
• Claire’s Stores. The girls’ jewelry retailer began opening branded store-within-a-store concepts at Toys R Us locations in 2014. Toys R Us, itself $5 billion in debt, declared bankruptcy in September. We’ve got seven Claire’s and Toys R Us Claire’s shops in Western New York.
• Guitar Center. The music store has two locations in Erie County and $940 million in outstanding debt.
• Sears Holdings Corp. This store has been on deathwatch for some time. It has gotten so bad, the store is struggling with vendors just to keep merchandise in stock. It announced last week it is putting the entire store on sale up to 50 percent in an attempt to corner the holiday shopping season. There are 9 Sears stores in Western New York. Two Sears locations in Walden Galleria and Boulevard Mall closed earlier this year.
• Nine West is in a tough spot, but we don’t have any of its stores left in our market.
• Bon-Ton Stores. Some of the department store’s suppliers have started scaling back shipments and asking to be paid sooner, a problem Toys "R" Us Inc. faced before filing for bankruptcy this fall, according to a Bloomberg report. The company told Bloomberg it maintains "constructive relationships" with its vendors. We have eight locations in Western New York.
• David’s Bridal. As if brides-to-be need one more thing to worry about, this wedding gown retailer is on the list, too. We’ve got two stores in our market.
• TOMS Shoes has $306.5 million in debt and its performance has been declining. They’re sold at 14 local stores.
• Eddie Bauer, which returned to the Walden Galleria last year and has a store at the Fashion Outlets, is also on the watch list.
• Charlotte Russe, with three stores here, is a fast-fashion retailer, but not fast enough to keep up with favorites like H&M.
• J Crew has fallen out of fashion favor and its numbers show it. It has stores at Walden Galleria and Fashion Outlets.
• Talbots, which has three stores in Buffalo Niagara, has struggled to find its place among mid-level women’s retailers.
• Savers. Yep, Fitch is “concerned” about your favorite thrift store.
• Bluestem is on the list. They own Haband and Fingerhut.
• You might not have heard of FULLBeauty, but you’ve probably heard of its brand Woman Within.
• The owner of Spencer’s gifts and Spirit Halloween stores is being watched by Fitch.
• Lands’ End was bought and then sold by Sears and still struggles. It has two stores here.
• PetSmart is not on the official “Loans of Concern” list, but it is noted as one to keep an eye on. It isn't likely to default soon, but it does have $4.2 billion in outstanding loans.
• Ann Taylor’s owner, Ascena, is also flagged as “noteworthy” with $1.6 billion in outstanding loans.