Retail Apocalypse: Pier 1 and the other retailers closing, filing for bankruptcy

13 Iconic Retailers Sink Into Pandemic Bankruptcy

Retail Apocalypse: Pier 1 and the other retailers closing, filing for bankruptcy

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En español | COVID-19 did not create the so-called retail apocalypse. More than 9,300 U.S. stores closed in 2019, and over 5,800 did the year before that, according to tracking by Coresight Research. A timeline by business analytics firm CB Insights dates the apocalypse to at least 2015.

But the pandemic has been its most swiftly destructive horseman. Following years that saw major retailers swapping hands in debt-bingeing buyouts while consumers shifted from shopping malls to shopping online, the mass shutdown of 2020 pushed some of America’s most iconic brands to the brink.

The pandemic year has brought a parade of headline-making Chapter 11 filings, with historic department stores and apparel purveyors at the front. And while bankruptcy doesn’t necessarily mean business, don’t be surprised to see favorite locations shutter. Here are some of the biggest-name bankruptcies to date and what their reorganizations might bring.

Ascena Retail (Lane Bryant, Ann Taylor)

Founded: 1962 (as DressBarn)

Filed for bankruptcy: July 23, 2020

The company behind some of the best-known brands in women’s fashion is shedding some 1,600 of its approximately 2,800 stores as part of a Chapter 11 restructuring aimed at paring around $1 billion in debt. Under a reorganization plan set for court confirmation in November, the debt will be converted into equity, turning over control of the company to its lenders.

Ascena’s biggest names — plus-size bellwether Lane Bryant and premium brands Ann Taylor, Loft and Lou & Grey — are losing a “select number” of stores, according to a company statement. Two other brands — tween fashion chain Justice and plus-size line Catherines — have been sold as part of the bankruptcy process, with Catherines shifting fully to online sales.

The original bankruptcy filing came about seven months after Ascena liquidated the last stores in its original line, DressBarn, which now operates online only under new ownership.

Brooks Brothers

Founded: 1818

Filed for bankruptcy: July 8, 2020

The brand that for generations defined the American way of dressing for success — especially the American male executive way — faced strong headwinds as people increasingly dressed down for the office and then, with the pandemic, stopped going entirely. When it entered Chapter 11, the country’s oldest ready-to-wear clothing retailer had already opted not to reopen 20 percent of its roughly 250 U.S. stores that went dormant in March, and it’s expected to close its three U.S. factories.

In a post on its page, Brooks Brothers said bankruptcy proceedings would help it facilitate an ongoing sale process while managing “what has been an incredibly challenging period for all industries, especially retail.

” A joint venture of mall developer Simon Property Group and Authentic Brands Group, a brand-management firm, won court approval Aug. 17 to buy Brooks Brothers for $325 million.

The new owners pledged to keep at least 125 Brooks Brothers stores open.

The joint venture, called the Sparc Group, has also purchased bankrupt jeans retailer Lucky Brand (see sidebar).

CEC Entertainment (Chuck E. Cheese)

Founded: 1977

Filed for bankruptcy: June 25, 2020

The 600-plus restaurant chain — whose pizza, arcade games and (until it was retired last year) animatronic band fueled countless raucous kids’ parties — was especially hard-hit by a pandemic that halted dining out and large gatherings virtually overnight. The company saw revenue plummet by 90 percent, increasing pressure to deal with nearly $1 billion in long-term debt.

As of late October, CEC, which also owns the similarly themed Peter Piper Pizza chain, had reopened 346 of its 555 company-run outlets that were shuttered in spring by the pandemic.

(Some locations are franchised and are not parties in the Chapter 11 process.

) While the company says it plans to continue reopening restaurants “as it is safe to do so,” it has permanently closed about four dozen locations.

In the meantime, CEC secured court approval in October to raise $200 million in financing for business operations and costs associated with a reorganization plan the company says has been approved by a majority of creditors.

Century 21 Stores

Founded: 1961

Filed for bankruptcy: Sept. 10, 2020

The family-owned department store that pioneered off-price retail in downtown Manhattan will wind down operations and close all 13 of its mostly New York City–area locations under Chapter 11 proceedings. The company (which is not affiliated with the similarly named real estate firm) immediately commenced a chainwide going-out-of-business sale.

Billing itself as “New York’s Best Kept Secret,” Century 21 offered deep discounts on designer clothes and accessories.

The original store, located in the shadow of the World Trade Center, survived the 9/11 terror attacks.

But the company was unable to outlast the pandemic, blaming its demise on insurers declining to pay $175 million in claims Century 21 contends it is owed under business-interruption policies.

“Without receipt of the insurance proceeds, there was no viable alternative but to begin the shutdown,” the company says in an FAQ for customers. A lawsuit Century 21 filed against its insurance providers is being folded into the bankruptcy case.


Lord & Taylor Will Shutter All of Its Stores After 194 Years in Business

Retail Apocalypse: Pier 1 and the other retailers closing, filing for bankruptcy

Between COVID-19’s catastrophic impact on retail coupled with the continued rise of online shopping, 2020 has brought a store closing list that’s predictably vast.

According to a recent report from retail data firm Coresight Research, 20,000 to 25,000 stores in the U.S. could permanently shutter this year, with more than 4,000 stores already saying they’ll close down this year.

More than half of the closures would be situated in malls, which are already in peril but have faced particular challenges due to social distancing.  

Before the health crisis, a number of retailers filed for bankruptcy and started to shutter physical locations, but in recent weeks the number has shot up. J.Crew, Neiman Marcus, and JCPenney are among the companies that filed for bankruptcy protection, while bankrupt sporting-goods retailer Modell’s stopped liquidation sales and closed all its stores. 

It’s not all gloom and doom, though: While some of your favorite retailers are closing select locations, several plan to divert savings into a focus on e-commerce, which is the way most of us shop these days anyway. 

Below, a continuously updated store closing list. 

Bath & Body Works

Stock up on Perfect Peony body splash now: Bath & Body Works’ parent company, L Brands, announced in May 2020 that 50 locations in the United States, as well as one store in Canada, will close this year. The closures will mostly affect mall locations. It’s not all bad news for the brand: Though in-mall stores are largely going away, 26 new locations will also open this year.

Signet Jewelers

The company—which runs several familiar mall jewelry stores including Kay Jewelers, Zales, Jared, H.Samuel, and Piercing Pagoda—revealed in June 2020 plans to close 150 U.S. stores and 80 U.K. stores ASAP, and that it will close at least another 150 stores before the end of the year, citing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Gap is including in 2020's store closing list. In March 2019, Gap said it will be shuttering approximately 230 locations during the next two years due to falling sales. As of January 2020, here are the locations that have closed or are scheduled to close.

Victoria’s Secret

Controversial lingerie retailer Victoria’s Secret parent company L Brands announced in May 2020 that it plans to close a quarter of its stores—250 locations—in the U.S. and Canada during the next few months. The brand also said more closures could be on the horizon over the next few years. According to CNN, there are around 1,100 Victoria’s Secret locations in North America.


Paper goods and stationery chain Papyrus filed for bankruptcy in January 2020, which prompted plans to close all of its 254 stores across the U.S. and Canada.

Fast-fashion retailer Zara was hit hard by COVID-19 and will close upwards of 1,000 retail locations. 

Michele Tantussi


In June 2020 the fast-fashion retailer’s parent company, Inditex, announced plans to close between 1,000 and 1,200 stores over the next two years and divert resources into online sales strategies due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The company hasn’t announced which Zara locations will be affected but said in a statement that closings will be “stores at the end of their useful life.” 


Chico’s FAS, the parent company of the women’s clothing chain, said in a 2019 press release that it will close 250 locations over the next three years and put more effort into online sales. The company also operates White House Black Market and Soma. 


The department store filed for bankruptcy in May 2020 and said it planned to eventually close about 30% of its 846 stores, many of which are situated in malls. Business Insider published a list in June 2020 of the JCPenney locations that will be closing as part of phase one. 


In February 2020, department store Macy’s said it will be closing 125 stores over the next three years and cutting thousands of corporate jobs. It will also be shuttering several office locations throughout the country and will consolidate customer service centers. The retailer’s Manhattan location will become its only corporate headquarters.

G.H. Bass and Wilson’s Leather

New York–based fashion manufacturer G-III Apparel Group Ltd. announced in June 2020 that it will permanently close all 110 Wilsons Leather and 89 G.H. Bass stores.

Pier 1 Imports

The furniture chain is planning to close 450 stores—about half of its total locations—the company announced in January 2020 amid falling sales. The retailer’s CEO also said it planned to cut its corporate head count and shut down select distribution centers.

Destination Maternity

In 2019 it was announced that 183 Destination Maternity locations will close after the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Motherhood Maternity and A Pea in the Pod also fall under the retailer’s parent company and will be affected. USA Today published the list of closures the same year they were announced. Online retail is up and running under Motherhood Maternity. 


As of March 2020, bankrupt sporting-goods retailer Modell’s stopped liquidation sales and closed all of its stores, according to Crain’s. 


In early 2020, fashion retailer Express said it will close 100 stores by 2022.


Nordstrom announced in June 2020 that it will permanently close all three Jeffrey designer apparel stores (which it owns) in addition to the 16 Nordstrom department stores it plans to shut down.

New York & Company

The apparel chain’s parent company, RTW Retailwinds, revealed plans to close 27 stores in its portfolio in 2020, including 19 New York & Company locations, four Fashion to Figure stores, and four New York & Co. outlets.

A.C. Moore

Craft-store chain A.C. Moore plans to close all 145 of its stores in 2020, according to an announcement made by its parents company, Nicole Crafts, in November 2019. The competing Michaels craft chain said it plans to acquire and convert around 40 of those locations into craft stores under its brand.

Forever 21

In October 2019, the fast-fashion mega-chain announced it would be filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and planned to close up to 178 U.S. locations.

“The decisions as to which domestic stores will be closing are ongoing, pending the outcome of continued conversations with landlords,” a spokesperson for the retailer told Glamour in 2019.

However, a month later the company said it planned to reduce the U.S. closures to 88 locations. E-commerce for the retailer is business as usual. 

The Children’s Place

Kids’ apparel retailer The Children’s Place announced in June 2020 that it will close 300 of its 920 stores in the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico, with 200 planned for this year and 100 for 2021. E-commerce will be the company’s focus. 


Electronics brand Bose is closing all of its 119 stores in the U.S., Europe, Japan, and Australia and will focus on online retail. According to Business Insider, approximately 130 locations will remain open in China, the United Arab Emirates, India, and South Korea.


Apparel and accessories brand Guess plans to close approximately 100 stores in North America and China over the next 18 months. 

Tuesday Morning

Closeout discount decor chain Tuesday Morning filed for bankruptcy and plans to shut down around 230 of its nearly 700 locations in the coming months. “The prolonged and unexpected closures of our stores in response to COVID-19 has had severe consequences on our business,” said CEO Steve Becker in a news release.


In 2020 the video-game chain said it expects store closures “to be equal to or more than the 320 net closures we saw in fiscal 2019 on a global basis.”

Bed, Bath & Beyond 

The home-goods giant announced plans to close dozens of stores in at least eight U.S. states in 2020. See the list of closures here.

Sears & Kmart

In November 2019, Sears revealed plans to close 96 stores in February 2020, including 51 Sears locations and 45 Kmart stores. (The chairman of Kmart engineered the purchase of Sears for $11 billion in 2004.)


Business Insider reported that at least 16 Hallmark-branded stores in 12 states would close in the first half of 2020, according to local reports and social media posts by store owners.


On June 26, 2020, the tech company announced it plans to close 83 physical stores and pivot to online only. According to CNN, it will keep locations open in London, New York City, Sydney, and Redmond, Washington, but they will be reimagined as “experience centers,” places to showcase Microsoft’s technology without necessarily selling products.


In June 2020, the coffee giant said it will close up to 400 company-owned stores in the U.S. and Canada over the next 18 months as it rolls out new-format stores and makes other changes better suited to quick pickup and convenience.


GNC Holdings Inc., which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in June 2020, says it will close 219 locations in the U.S. and 29 in Canada. The health retailer released an initial list of stores that will shutter on

Lucky Brand

Denim heritage company Lucky Brand Dungarees LLC, which has roughly 200 Lucky Brand stores in the U.S. and sells in certain department stores, announced plans to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in July 2020, according to USA Today. The company also plans to close at least 13 stores, it said in a news release.

Men’s Wearhouse and Jos. A. Bank

Thanks to a staggering number of American men working from home as a result of coronavirus, suit purveyors Men's Wearhouse and Jos. A. Bank plan to close up to 500 stores over time, as revealed by their parent company, Tailored Brands, in July 2020. It also plans to cut about 20% of its corporate jobs by the end of its fiscal second quarter.

Lord & Taylor

After 194 years in business, Lord & Taylor announced it will be closing all of its stores.

“While we are still entertaining various opportunities, we believe it is prudent to simultaneously put the remainder of the stores into liquidation to maximize value of inventory for the estate while pursuing options for the company's brands,” Ed Kremer, Lord & Taylor's chief restructuring officer, said in a statement.

This post has been updated.


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