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J. Crew, Gold's Gym Bankrupt, Other Retailers On The Cusp

Gold's Gym and J. Crew became the latest public-facing companies to file for bankruptcy Monday, each citing the coronavirus pandemic as the main cause.

Other retailers are expected to follow suit in the near future for similar reasons, though many retailers had been struggling since well before the outbreak.


Since March 1, risk scores for a number of retailers have dropped to levels associated with a strong likelihood of bankruptcy, Retail Dive reports.

Data from CreditRiskMonitor found retailers most at risk now for bankruptcy are apparel stores Ascena, J. Jill and RTW RetailWinds, along with department stores J.C. Penney and Neiman Marcus. Also at risk at Stein Mart, Rite Aid, GameStop and GNC.

Gold's, which operates about 700 gyms worldwide, has already closed 30 company-owned locations. It is filing for Chapter 11 reorganization and says it wants to emerge from the proceeding by Aug. 1.

J. Crew, which operates just less than 500 stores, likewise filed for Chapter 11 on Monday, forecasting a sales loss of $900M because of the pandemic. The retailer has been struggling with debt since long before the crisis, partly as the result of a leveraged buyout by private equity firms earlier this decade, The New York Times reports

J. Crew will probably mark the first of a cascade of pandemic-related retail chain bankruptcies, with other brands now teetering on the brink, The Wall Street Journal reports, citing Neiman Marcus and J.C. Penney in particular. Both are in discussions with lenders ahead of possible filings.

“J.Crew’s bankruptcy will be the first in a wave of defaults among retailers with weak balance sheets,” Moody's Vice President Raya Sokolyanska told the WSJ. 

Neiman Marcus is reportedly trying to stave off bankruptcy by making a deal with lender Pacific Investment Management that would cut its debt in half, but also cede control of the company to Pacific, Bloomberg reports.

J.C. Penney, as it teeters on the edge of bankruptcy, filed a temporary restraining order against Sephora to prevent the makeup retailer from leaving J.C. Penney stores, CNBC reports. Sephora has been operating stores-within-stores in J.C. Penney for more than 10 years, but now reportedly wants out.

Women's apparel specialist J. Jill has hired advisers to help it manage its balance sheet.

"COVID-19 also aggravates many of the other risks to our business, including our ability to service our debt and lease obligations and our ability to continue to comply with the maintenance covenants of our indebtedness," the company said in a recent Securities and Exchange Commission filing.