AMC Logo | AMC BankruptcyThe tide has turned from last year! Slowly, the global Pandemic is coming to an end. In its wake, the retail industry has been forever changed with technological innovations and advancements, including online ordering and delivery/pickup, warehousing, automation, and mobile self-check-out. Although most landlords and tenants have worked together during the adversity, there are still a number of problem tenants that may not be able to recover or who may now use the bankruptcy process to get rid of debt and actually restructure.

Following is our top 10 retailers to watch for possible Chapter 11 filing(s) in the year ahead.

  1. AMC – Why Go to the Movies When You Can Stream? According to the Motley Fool, despite the more than $917 million in cash infusion from the investors at the beginning of the year, there is still numerous obstacles for the movie theater company. The rise in streaming services, slow return of consumers to theaters, as well as a significant portion of their current debt being nonconvertible are all signs that there is a high likelihood of a bankruptcy filing to restructure the debt.
  2. Nine West – Footwear Company Walking into a Chapter 22? The women’s footwear company owned by Premier Brands Group Holdings previously filed for bankruptcy in 2018. At the time, it reduced debt and sold the Anne Klein trademark. However, according to Business Insider, the Pandemic is caused a significant drop in revenue. The company looks poised for a Chapter 22 filing – a second Chapter 11 bankruptcy within a few years of the first filing.
  3. LA Fitness – A Footprint Reduction? The Wall Street Journal reports that although gyms are now re-open, the Pandemic upended the fitness industry. However, out of all the gyms that suffer through the Pandemic, LA Fitness seems to be in the best position to use the bankruptcy process to reduce its footprint and renegotiate leases.
  4. Jo-Ann Stores – Private Equity Debt. According to USA Today, the private-equity-owned company has significant debt. This scenario is a classic reason for filing for bankruptcy – remember Toys R’ Us.
  5. Regal Entertainment Group – Significant Rent Arrears. CNBC reports that Regal’s re-opening of approximately 500 locations on April 2 to limited capacity was a significant decision for the theater chain. However, like AMC, its owner, Cineworld Group PLC, faces significant debt, streaming services, and slow return of customers. In addition, numerous outlets report significant rent arrears to landlords.
  6. Barnes and Noble – Can It Survive? The acquisition of Paper Source was meant to create synergies between the two. However, the company is heavily reliant on food concessions as well as in-store customers. Have buyer habits changed for good due to the Pandemic? Forbes still has it on its list of specialty retailers to watch for a Chapter 11 filing.
  7. Rite Aid – A Healthier Population Hurts. notes that the US pharmacy chain, with 2,500 stores in 19 states, had a rough go during the Pandemic, as fewer people came down with colds or coughs as they sheltered at home. According to Moody’s, the company is in danger of default as it holds $1.5 billion in outstanding high-risk debt.
  8. Equinox – Another Gym Filing? According to Crain’s New York, landlords are pursuing the private health club for more than $6 million in back rent. Bloomberg noted in February 2021 that the company reached a deal that released it from a limited guarantee of SoulCycle’s $265 million credit facility with lender HPS Investment Partners. Still, the heavy back rent, multiple locations, and other debt issues make the gym a perfect candidate for a Chapter 11 restructuring.
  9. The Children’s Place – Losses Keep Piling Up. According to Forbes, the Pandemic accelerated apparel filings. One retailer listed at the top of the list for this year is The Children’s Place. The largest children’s apparel retailer is on track to close more than 300 stores. Although the company negotiated about $13 million in rent abatements in the fourth quarter of 2020 for the COVID-closure period, it may not be enough to avoid a filing.
  10. The Gap – Fall Into Bankruptcy? U.S. News & World Report notes that the company’s long-term debt increased from 1.24 billion to 2.21 billion in 2000 due to the Pandemic. Although its business is expected to recover as malls re-opened and shoppers return, there is still a concern about the decline in mall traffic long-term.

If you are an owner, developer, and/or landlord, it is important to know and understand how these changes will affect your shopping center. Stark & Stark’s Shopping Center and Retail Development Group can help. Our attorneys regularly represent owners, developers, and/or landlords throughout the country in leasing, buying/selling, 1031 Exchanges, refinancing, as well as enforcement activities. One of our specialties is bankruptcy representation for owners, developers, and/or landlords nationally.

Currently, our team is providing value-added services to landlords in a number of Chapter 11 cases, including Art Van, GNC, Stage Stores, Modell’s, 24 Hour Fitness, Sears, Guitar Centers, NPC, Toys R Us, Charming Charlie Part 2, and A&P.

For more information on how Stark & Stark’s Shopping Center Group can assist you, don’t hesitate to contact Thomas Onder, Shareholder, at (609) 219-7458 or, as well as Joseph Lemkin at (609) 791-7022 or Messrs. Onder and Lemkin write regularly on commercial real estate issues and are both active members of ICSC. Mr. Onder is State Chair for ICSC PA/NJ/DE region.