The bankruptcies that rocked the retail industry in 2019

Key Points
  • Barneys New York, Forever 21, Sugarfina and Destination Maternity are just a few of the retailers that filed for bankruptcy this year.
  • Some companies were returning to bankruptcy court for the second time.
  • A good portion of the retailers had to liquidate their business entirely.
A Barney's store stands in lower Manhattan on August 06, 2019 in New York City. Barneys, one of America's most exclusive clothing stores, has filed for bankruptcy.
Spencer Platt | Getty Images

2019 brought with it more retail bankruptcies.

And the implications have been more store closures, thousands of lost jobs and an vastly different retail landscape that doesn't look anything like where your parents used to shop.

While some retailers filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection for the first time this year, others went through a so-called Chapter 22 scenario, where it was their second time in bankruptcy court. That included Z Gallerie and Charming Charlie. And some retailers, like discount chain Fred's, ended up liquidating.

"The bankruptcies [this year] are kind of lumpy," said Vince Tibone, a lead retail analyst at commercial real estate services firm Green Street Advisors. "2017 was a big year. 2018 was a little on the lighter side. 2019 turned out to be another big year."

2020 will inevitably bring with it more bankruptcies, analysts say. But the filings from the likes of Payless ShoeSource, Destination Maternity and Shopko in 2019 also have their own consequences for the coming year.

Shoe retailer Payless has shut all its stores, for example, wiping itself entirely from the retail landscape. Shopko is also liquidating. But gifting chain Things Remembered has found a new owner to help the business keep its website running during bankruptcy, and Gymboree's intellectual property was acquired by The Children's Place and Gap to keep some of its stores open. Destination Maternity also has a new owner that is considering keeping some stores open rather than liquidate.

Every retailer's path through bankruptcy is a little different. Some companies are still finding ways, through new owners and fresh infusions of cash, to come back to life. Sears, in fact, is still holding on.

Another key theme to draw from this year's retail bankruptcies is that the apparel category is struggling more than others, Tibone said.

Numerous clothing retailers such as Charlotte Russe, Diesel, A'Gaci and Forever 21 filed for bankruptcy this year. That follows the department store bankruptcies of Sears and Bon-Ton in 2018. Clothing shoppers are turning to platforms like Rent the Runway and Stitch Fix or are going to Target and TJ Maxx, bypassing department stores.

There were 23 retail bankruptcies in 2019, compared with 17 in 2018, according to a tracking by CB Insights. The firm has tracked 81 retail bankruptcies starting in 2015.

Here's a list of the retailers that filed for bankruptcy in 2019, from earliest filings to the most recent.


A sign outside of a shopko that is going out of business in Onalaska, Wisconsin along highway 16.
Jason_Ray_Photography | iStock Editorial | Getty Images

Shopko filed for bankruptcy last January. Initially, the company was hoping to salvage some of its locations in shuttering about 70% of its stores. But by March, Shopko announced plans to liquidate all of its assets, or more than 300 stores. It was ultimately unable to find a buyer for the discount retail business.

Shopko, when it filed, cited assets of less than $1 billion and debts of $1 billion to $10 billion.


Pedestrians walk past a Gymboree store in San Francisco, California.
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Gymboree filed for bankruptcy, for a second time, in January. It said at the time that it planned to shutter all 800 of its Gymboree and Crazy 8 stores. By March, it announced it had found buyers for the rights for those brands and for its high-end children's chain Janie and Jack. It sold the first to The Children's Place and Janie and Jack to Gap. The Children's Place is now planning to add Gymboree shops inside 200 of its stores across the U.S. and Canada in 2020. Gap has kept some Janie and Jack stores open.

Gymboree, when it filed, listed assets in the range of $100 million to $500 million, and liabilities of $50 million to $100 million.

Things Remembered

Things Remembered, a popular gifting chain, filed for bankruptcy in February 2019. This is a snapshot of its website.

Things Remembered, a gifting chain, filed for bankruptcy in February. Weeks later, the business was sold to privately held giftware distributor Enesco. When Things Remembered filed for bankruptcy, it had roughly 450 stores. Enesco said it planned to save fewer than half of those stores through its purchase. To try to turn the business around, it said it would offer and hopefully sell more personalized merchandise to customers.

Things Remembered, when it filed, listed assets in a range of $50 million to $100 million, and $100 million to $500 million in liabilities.

Payless Shoesource

Orlando, Florida, United States - A Payless ShoeSource store is seen in Orlando, Florida on February 17, 2019, the first day of the firm's liquidation sale after confirming on February 15, 2019 that it will close its 2,100 stores in the U.S. and Puerto Rico.
Paul Hennessy | NurPhoto | Getty Images

Payless Shoesource filed for bankruptcy, for the second time, in February. This time, the company announced it would be shuttering all of its stores, which amounted to more than 2,000 across North America. Payless said it was "ill-equipped to survive in today's retail environment." It was especially burdened by a heavy debt load.

Payless, when it filed, listed assets and liabilities in a range of $500 million to $1 billion.

Charlotte Russe

A Charlotte Russe store displays liquidation signs in the window near Herald Square, March 7, 2019 in New York City.
Drew Angerer | Getty Images

Charlotte Russe filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February. At one point, the teen apparel retailer was going to be forced to liquidate and shut more than 500 stores nationwide. But the brand and its intellectual property was sold to North American fashion house YM. in March. YM said it planned to keep dozens of Charlotte Russe locations open.


Source: Diesel

Denim brand Diesel filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in March. It had 28 stores at the time and said it planned to exit some of those leases as a result of its filing. The company blamed sinking sales and expensive real estate deals for pushing it into bankruptcy court. It struggled to compete with popular jeans maker Levi's, among others.

Diesel, when it filed, listed assets of $50 million to $100 million, and liabilities of $10 million to $50 million.

Z Gallerie

Z Gallerie, a retailer that offers furniture and accessories for home and office, on September 5, 2008, in Long Beach, CA The retailer announced it will close its Pine Ave. location when the building, which Z Galleire owns, is sold. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen/Digital First Media/Orange County Register via Getty Images)
Jeff Gritchen | Orange County Register | MediaNews Group | Getty Images

Home furnishings retailer Z Gallerie filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, for a second time, in March. At the time, it said it planned to shut 17 of its 76 stores. It later found a new owner, DirectBuy, which said it planned to keep at least 32 Z Gallerie locations open. Z Gallerie's struggles were pegged to the company being late to invest in e-commerce, at a time when Amazon's dominance was only accelerating, even in home goods.

Z Gallerie, when it filed, listed assets and liabilities of $100 million to $500 million.

Roberto Cavalli

People walk in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles. Beverly Hills is a district of upscale shopping and rich celebrities.
tupungato | iStock Editorial | Getty Images

Luxury fashion brand Roberto Cavalli filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in April. It liquidated its entire North American business after losing its chief creative director. It had eight stores and four outlets in the U.S., mostly in upscale areas like along Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, California. The Italian-based label fell out favor with U.S. consumers as brands like Gucci, Balenciaga and Fendi have surged in popularity more recently.

Charming Charlie

Shoppers walk past a Charming Charlie store in Manhattan
Source: Charming Charlie

The youthful apparel and accessories brand Charming Charlie filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in July. It marked the company's second filing, after it first went into bankruptcy court at the end of 2017. This time, the company said it would be liquidating all of its roughly 261 U.S. stores. All have since closed. Charming Charlie's intellectual property assets were later sold to real estate investment company CJS Group in September. Charming Charlie's website now says the brand will be staging a "comeback" in 2020.

Charming Charlie, when it filed, listed $82 million in debt.


The A'GACI store opening at Sawgrass Mills Mall in Sunrise, Florida.
Larry Marano | WireImage | Getty Images

Women's fashion brand A'gaci filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in August. It was the company's second time in bankruptcy court in under two years. This time, A'gaci said in court documents it intended to "close and wind down" all 54 of its brick and mortar store locations.


Plus-size apparel brand Avenue filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in August. Here's a snapshot of its website.

Plus-size apparel brand Avenue filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in August and three months later filed for Chapter 7. It has since started to liquidate its more than 200 stores. As deep-pocketed rivals like Walmart and Target have grown their plus-size offerings, Avenue struggled to keep its product assortment fresh and appealing. Other competitors include Lane Bryant, Torrid and Ashley Stewart.

Avenue listed assets of $50 million to $100 million, and liabilities of $100 million to $500 million.

Barneys New York

Pedestrians pass in front of a Barneys New York retail location in Chicago.
Taylor Glascock | Bloomberg | Getty Images

High-end department store chain Barneys New York filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in August. In November, a bankruptcy judge approved the sale of Barneys' brands and other intellectual property to Authentic Brands, kicking off liquidation sales at all of Barneys' stores. Authentic Brands plans to license the Barneys brand name to Hudson's Bay co-owned Saks Fifth Avenue and plans to open pint-sized Barneys shops in certain Saks locations.

Barneys New York, when it filed, listed over $100 million in debt and assets.


A store log outside of the headquarters of Fred's Pharmacy Memphis, Tennessee.
Sipa | AP Images

Discount retailer and pharmacy chain Fred's filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in September and plans to liquidate and shut all of its more than 500 stores. Fred's lacked scale in the pharmacy and the discount business to be competitive with its larger rivals. Its future was thrown into question when federal antitrust regulators stopped a tie-up between Walgreens Boots Alliance and Rite Aid. Fred's had been expected to benefit from that deal because it was poised to add nearly 1,000 Rite Aid stores to its business.

Fred's, when it filed, listed total assets of $475 million and total debts of $380 million.

Forever 21

People enter a Forever 21 store at a shopping mall in Montebello, California on September 30, 2019 a day after the fashion retailer filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
Frederic J. Brown | AFP | Getty Images

Apparel retailer Forever 21 filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in September. At the time, it had more than 800 stores worldwide. During bankruptcy proceedings, the company has said it plans to exit most of its businesses overseas, in Asia and Europe. It plans to continue operating in its stronger regions of Mexico and Latin America. And it doesn't plan to exit any major markets in the U.S., though it will shut dozens of stores there. Forever 21 continues to negotiate with landlords to try to earn rent reductions. The company was ultimately pushed into bankruptcy because it grew too fast, too large, and failed to understand some international markets.

Forever 21, when it filed, listed assets and liabilities in a range of $1 billion to $10 billion.


A view of sugarfina treats during the opening of Daniel Wellington's global flagship store in Rockefeller Center on October 13, 2018 in New York City.
Craig Barritt | Getty Images

Luxe candy purveyor Sugarfina, known for its unique flavors of gummy bears and chocolates, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in September. Private-equity firm Bristol Luxury Group acquired Sugarfina's assets in November, vowing to keep some of the stores open. Sugarfina also operates smaller shops in some Nordstrom locations.

Sugarfina, when it filed, listed assets and liabilities of up to $50 million.

Destination Maternity

Destination Maternity filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in October 2019.
Source: Destination Maternity

Destination Maternity, which owned maternity brands including A Pea in the Pod and Motherhood Maternity, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in October. At the time, it had more than 400 stores under those various banners. In early December, Marquee Brands said it would acquire Destination Maternity's assets. It said it was "evaluating all aspects of the current business, including its network of retail stores." It remains unclear how many of Destination Maternity's locations will ultimately go dark, under new ownership.

Destination Maternity, when it filed, listed $260 million in assets and $244 million in debts.

Why Forever 21 failed abroad
Why Forever 21 failed abroad