US Retailers At Risk for Bankruptcy: Most High Risk Big Retail Chains

Complete List of Retailers In Danger of Chapter 11 During the Recession

US Retailers At Risk for Bankruptcy Most High Risk Big Retail Chains
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2016 UPDATE: All Retail Chains That Filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Protection >>

Some of the most well-known brands in the U.S. retail industry disappeared from the retail landscape forever in 2008 and 2009 when consumers stopped spending, and some of the largest U.S. retail chains couldn’t find a way to survive in the deep retail recession ultra-competitive environment.

The Great Recession provided an unwanted, but much needed reality check for American retailers.

Retailers large and small learned the lesson that there was no such thing as too big to fail, too old to fail, or too famous to fail.  Large retail chains Borders and Circuit City, famous retail chains like Blockbuster, and some of the oldest retail chains like Boscov's filed bankruptcy and disappeared from the U.S. retail landscape, much to the surprise of American consumers and retail industry experts.

With each Chapter 11 bankruptcy during the Great Recession, retail industry onlookers were left with two big questions... ."How long will the list of retail bankruptcies grow?"  and "Which major U.S. retail chain is next in line for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and possible liquidation?": 

In an effort to answer these questions, a national commercial real estate investment firm, Madison Marquette, assessed the stability of the largest U.S. retail chains, and ranked these retailers based on their risk for bankruptcy in the short-term.

An overview of the list is below, arranged according to the level of bankruptcy risk that Madison Marquette believed was appropriate for each company, based on an undisclosed combination of criteria.

Although this Retailers At Risk for Bankruptcy list below was published in 2009, it has current retail relevance as a comparison tool.

 For instance, the Chico's retail chain was identified as being at high risk for bankruptcy in 2009.  Five years later, the Chico's retail chain didn't file Chapter 11, but it did close 120 of its retail stores in order to avoid ending up in bankruptcy court in 2015.

Talbots avoided a trip to bankruptcy court by selling off its JJill brand.  Four retail chains that were assessed to be "moderately" at risk for bankruptcy - Borders, Blockbuster, Brookstone, and Cache did, however, visit Chapter 11 bankruptcy court and never made it out alive.  All four of these retail chains have been liquidated since 2009.   

Compare the bankruptcy predictions below with present day retail reality and then click the links to get current information about individual retail chains.

RELATED: Mission Statements That Drove Retail Companies Into Bankruptcy >>

U.S. Retail Companies Assessed to be High Risk for Bankruptcy:

The story is generally the same for the retail companies that were designated as “high risk” by Madison Marquette. Sales declines + high debt + low cash reserves + looming debt payments = high risk. Chico’s, Cost Plus and Dillards kept bankruptcy at bay during the Recession with cost-cutting, inventory reduction, and operational efficiencies.

Talbots took more drastic measures by selling off its J Jill brand stores, which were floundering and draining the company’s resources. These are the retailers that were predicted to join the retail Chapter 11 tally in 2009:

  • Chico’s
  • Cost Plus World Market
  • Dillards
  • Talbots

U.S. Retail Companies Assessed to be Medium Risk for Bankruptcy

The duration of the retail recession and the strategies that company leaders used during that time kept these major U.S. retail chains off the high-risk list above and the low-risk list below. These are the retailers that were struggling to find firm footing in the worst industry-wide retail recession in American history since the Great Depression: Some of them found their footing, some of them did not, and some of them are still looking for stability almost a decade later.

  • Abercrombie & Fitch
  • Aldo Shoes
  • American Eagle
  • Ann Taylor
  • Barnes & Noble
  • Belk
  • Blockbuster Video
  • Borders Group
  • Brookstone
  • Cache
  • Christopher & Banks
  • Coldwater Creek
  • Crate & Barrel
  • Express
  • Foot Locker
  • Fossil
  • Gamestop
  • Gap
  • Home Depot
  • J Crew
  • Limited Brands
  • Lowes
  • Modell’s Sports
  • Office Depot
  • Office Max
  • Pacific Sunwear
  • Pottery Barn
  • Rite Aid
  • Saks
  • Sears
  • Signet Jewelry
  • Starbucks
  • Super Valu
  • The Limited
  • Tween Brands
  • Whole Foods
  • Williams-Sonoma
  • Zales

U.S. Retail Companies Assessed to be Low Risk for Bankruptcy

These retail companies either thrived in the recession economy or rode out the economic disruption with relative comfort. Even though same-store sales for many of these companies in 2009 were considerably lower than they were in 2008, their cash reserves, credit lines, and expense management were sufficient during the downturn to keep theses "low-risk retail" companies financially stable.

Many of these low-risk retailers defied the recession by increasing sales and opening new store locations.as well as using Innovative offerings, value pricing, and quick response to dramatically changing buying habits.  These strategies helped these successful retail companies to capture the attention of discerning customers, and strengthen loyalties despite price-motivated fickleness.

The low-risk retail chains below were expected to be able to retain a significant position in the post-recession retail landscape, and some of these retail brands emerged stronger, bigger, and more powerful than they were before the global retail economy plummeted in 2008.

  • Aeropostale
  • Apple
  • Bebe
  • Bed Bath & Beyond
  • Best Buy
  • Buckle
  • Burlington Coat Factory
  • California Pizza Kitchen
  • Coach
  • CVS
  • Dick’s Sporting Goods
  • Dress Barn
  • H&M
  • Harris Teeter
  • Hibbett Sporting Goods
  • Hot Topic
  • JC Penney
  • JoAnn Stores
  • Jos A Banks
  • Kohl’s
  • Kroger
  • Macy’s
  • Michael’s
  • Nordstrom
  • Panera Bread
  • Payless ShoeSource
  • Petco
  • PetsMart
  • Ross Stores
  • Royal Ahold
  • Safeway
  • Staples
  • Steve Madden Shoes
  • Target
  • The Children’s Place
  • TJ Maxx
  • Urban Outfitters
  • Walgreen
  • Wal-Mart