More than a dozen retailers — including major department store chains, mattress sellers and shoe companies — filed for bankruptcy protection in 2018, despite strong consumer spending that otherwise lifted the U.S. economy.
The pace of closures slowed from 2017, when more than 20 retailers including Toys R Us, Hhgregg and Gymboree went bust. But the filings and resulting store closures are still painful for the employees and mall owners who find themselves dealing with the aftermath.
The biggest bankruptcy of 2018 was Sears, a 125-year-old business that was once the largest retailer in the U.S. The department store chain struggled to revive its business as it shut hundreds of stores and sold other assets in an attempt to raise cash. Sears’ fate is still uncertain heading into 2019, as the company’s chairman, Eddie Lampert, is in the process of trying to buy back Sears’ remaining stores and prevent them from going dark altogether. Sears employed roughly 70,000 people in the U.S. when it went bust in October.
For other businesses on the brink of bankruptcy, Sears offers a painful lesson of what can happen to a company when it fails to invest in its stores and website to keep pace with the rest of the industry. Companies like Walmart and Target doubled down on investments in their brick-and-mortar shops and e-commerce operations in 2018 — remodeling stores and adding faster shipping options. They’re expected to have had a strong holiday season as a result.
A list compiled by Moody’s shows retailers at risk of defaulting on loan payments — and therefore who could be forced to file for bankruptcy in the new year — include J.Crew, Neiman Marcus and Toms Shoes. Analysts will be watching these names more closely, in addition to J.C. Penney, which last week saw its shares fall under $1 for the first time. Below is a list of more than a dozen retailers that filed for bankruptcy in 2018.