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Back from the dead: 13 retailers get another shot

Retailers that came back from the dead
AzmanL | Getty Images

Following a cascade of retailers filing for bankruptcy or otherwise closing hundreds of stores, there's finally some good news.

Over the past year, several of the companies that consumers said goodbye to have announced that they're polishing up their nameplates for a new act.

Whether these gone-but-not-forgotten names are making their return exclusively on the Web or will once again operate physical shops, these companies run the gamut from fun, flirty '90s stores to a sexy lingerie seller.

They also join a list of companies that were forced to fold during the throes of the recession but have since gotten another chance at life.

Is your favorite brand of yesteryear making a comeback? Click ahead to find out.

By CNBC's Krystina Gustafson
Posted 30 July 2015
Updated 19 Feb. 2016

Circuit City
Getty Images

Circuit City stores have been gone for the greater part of a decade, after a slowdown in consumer spending and eroding market share put the company out of business in 2008. Now under new ownership, the electronics chain of yesteryear is preparing for a relaunch online, at its own retail shops and through franchise locations.

According to the company's relaunched website, the stores are expected to measure roughly 4,000 square feet. That's a fraction of Circuit City's previous store size, which averaged closer to 30,000 square feet.

Limited Too
Mark Lennihan | AP

From inflatable furniture to cheeky T-shirts with animal faces, Limited Too's girl-power merchandise developed a cult following that never quite went away. So when Bluestar Alliance announced in July that it had acquired the company's trademarks — and will relaunch the brand both online and at retail stores — shoppers took to social media to celebrate.

The brand's pending resurrection comes several years after then-owner Tween Brands said it would convert all Limited Too stores into the lower-price Justice format, as recession-hit parents opted for thriftier fashions. It also comes as many of the brand's frequent shoppers are now parents themselves.

"Over the years Limited Too has brought fun and joy to children's fashion shopping experiences and holds a special place with the millennial moms who are now having children of their own," said Ralph Gindi, co-founder of Bluestar Alliance.

Bluestar also owns the Nanette Lepore and Catherine Malandrino brands.

Delia's
Source: Delia's

Fans of another '90s staple also rejoiced last summer.

Less than a year after Delia's — the retailer known for its flirty catalogs — said that it would liquidate all of its merchandise and shutter its stores, it was brought back to life online. The company teased its August 2015 catalog on social media, with the hashtag #deliasforever. That mailer hit homes Aug. 10.

Delia's relaunch was led by Steve Russo, founder and CEO of FAB Starpoint, which licenses back-to-school merchandise. A newly formed entity called Butterfly Retail purchased the rights to the brand for $2.5 million.

"In speaking to women who came of age in the '90s, they all said they couldn't wait to receive their Delia's catalog in the mail after school," Russo said.

"We saw an opportunity to revive that excitement in every girl."

Frederick's of Hollywood
Source: Frederick's of Hollywood

Risque has proven a risky bet for Frederick's of Hollywood.

The lingerie store made its second trip to bankruptcy court in April; only this time, it went with a $22.5 million offer from Authentic Brands Group. That company, which owns the rights to the Marilyn Monroe and Juicy Couture Brands, will continue to run its operations online.

ABG said that it plans to expand the brand into new product categories, including beauty and fragrance, and sell its merchandise at department and specialty stores across the globe.

"There is a tremendous amount of brand equity that we will leverage globally via key partnerships, dynamic marketing, and innovative product design," Nick Woodhouse, ABG's president, said at the time of the acquisition.

C. Wonder
Source: C Wonder

C. Wonder's colorful, monogram-filled stores were a lightning rod for controversy during its four-year lifespan. Founder Chris Burch spent much of his time battling with ex-wife Tory Burch, who accused her former husband of ripping off aspects of her popular brand for the line.

But in August, Xcel Brands, which owns the Isaac Mizrahi fashion label, said it completed an acquisition of the brand and its intellectual property rights for roughly $12.5 million in cash and stock.

The brand is launching on QVC Feb. 29.

RadioShack
A person walks by a Radio Shack store in San Francisco.
Getty Images

RadioShack's revival comes complete with a catchy song. After its long-expected Chapter 11 filing early last year, the electronics chain partnered with Sprint on more than 1,400 co-branded shops.

It has broadcasted news of its existence on social media through videos featuring the likes of Carlos Mencia and Orlando Jones, using the hashtag #RadioShackisBack.

"After RadioShack's successful emergence from bankruptcy as a revitalized company with over 1,700 stores in 1,200 communities, we had to address the reality that many people thought we were no longer in business," Michael Tatelman, RadioShack's chief marketing officer, told CNBC last year.

In addition to the stores it operates with Sprint, roughly 500 franchised RadioShack stores still remain open.

Linens 'N Things
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Linens 'N Things stores were home to, well, linens and things, for more than 30 years. But in 2008 it suffered the same fate as Circuit City, Mervyns and several other retailers, who were pushed into bankruptcy as their sales took a hit from the recession.

At the time Linens 'N Things filed for bankruptcy, it operated nearly 600 stores. One year later, when Hilco Global, Gordon Brothers Group and other partners disposed of the retailer's assets, a joint venture including those two names and Infinity Lifestyle Brands acquired its intellectual property. They then revived the nameplate as an online-only retailer.

Linens 'N Things is now owned by Sequential Brands Group.

Filene's Basement
A Filene's Basement store New York City, May, 2009.
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The original off-price retailer wasn't able to capitalize on recession-beaten shoppers' newfound love for brand names at a discount. Filene's, made famous by its blockbuster Running of the Brides wedding dress sale, filed for bankruptcy a third time in 2011, closing all of its stores.

Filene's former owner Syms Corp. emerged from Chapter 11 in 2012, as Trinity Place Holdings. Trinity still owns the Filene's Basement trademark, and the retailer's Web page came back online in September.

Fellow off-price retailer Loehmann's, which suffered the same fate as Filene's two years ago, also exists exclusively on the Web.

Deb Shops
Source: Deb Shops

Deb Shops was one of a slew of retailers to file Chapter 11 during the 2014 holiday season. The company's owner, private equity firm Cerberus Capital, closed all of the retailer's physical stores and liquidated their merchandise. Then in March, Softree paid $2.2 million for the brand's trademarks and domain names.

The teen retailer, which developed a following for its vast plus-size offerings, continues to sell its fashions on the Web.

Wet Seal
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Fellow teen retailer Wet Seal filed Chapter 11 shortly after Deb Shops, and it wasn't long before it, too, got snatched up. In April, an affiliate of private equity firm Versa Capital Management acquired the company, allowing it to keep open roughly 170 stores. It had operated more than 500.

The Sharper Image
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Shoppers in the market for an electric s'mores maker, a laptop desk that doubles as an exercise bike, or a heated shaving cream dispenser can breathe a sigh of relief. Quirky electronics retailer The Sharper Image filed Chapter 11 in 2008, following years of sluggish sales and a controversy over its Ionic Breeze air purifiers.

Although the brand no longer operates its own stores, it relaunched online in 2010 under the ownership of Camelot Venture Group, a private investing firm. One year later, Iconix Brand Group acquired The Sharper Image brand.

Eddie Bauer
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Outdoor apparel brand Eddie Bauer is another retailer that took multiple trips to bankruptcy court. The most recent visit came in 2009, following what the firm's then-CEO Neil Fiske referred to as a "crushing" debt burden put in place during its prior reorganization, and the "prolonged" recession.

Golden Gate Capital, known for its investments in the consumer and retail space, acquired the brand for $286 million in 2009. Though Jos. A. Bank was gunning for Bauer in 2014 — an acquisition that was diverted when Men's Wearhouse snatched up Jos. A. Bank — it remains under the control of Golden Gate.

At the time of the proposal, a presentation by Jos. A. Bank listed Bauer's 2013 revenues at $890 million. Eddie Bauer operates more than 300 stores across the U.S. and Canada.

SkyMall
Source: SkyMall

Blame it on technology.

Although SkyMall's former CEO attributed the in-flight magazine's demise to electronics, that did not dissuade C&A Marketing from snatching up the iconic brand for $1.9 million. It's currently selling everything from pet water fountains to circulation improving leg wraps on its website, and the catalog made a limited comeback in the fourth quarter.

"Thanks to the changing times and in-flight Wi-Fi, the once iconic travel-related brand became less relevant and more entertaining. While items like life-size yard gorillas are interesting to look at, they're not usually the kind of impulse or insightful purchase that will resonate with travelers," said Chaim Pikarski, executive vice president of C&A.

"Our goal is to bring the SkyMall brand back to its roots, back to the brands, products and technology that relate to all travelers."