Neiman Marcus during COVID-19 in the Plaza Frontenac Shopping Center in St. Louis in 2020. credit craig currie

Fashion retail in St. Louis fighting debt during COVID-19

Written by Lisa Shackelford, May 6, 2020 from

Fashion retailer J. Crew Group Inc., along with subsidiary, Madewell, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection this week in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis.

In an agreement with its lenders, J. Crew will restructure its debt to convert $1.65 billion of debt into equity and will receive $400 million in debtor-in-possession financing from lenders including Anchorage Capital Group L.L.C., GSO Capital Partners and Davidson Kempner Capital Management LP.

“The significant deleveraging contemplated by this agreement, coupled with J. Crew Group’s strategy to strengthen its robust e-commerce platforms to drive continued growth in its direct-to-consumer segment, will position the company for future success,” said Kevin Ulrich, CEO of Anchorage Capital Group.

The preppy clothing retailer has four St. Louis-area locations, including Saint Louis Galleria, Plaza Frontenac, and two outlet stores in Chesterfield.

Neiman Marcus is also battling against the effects of COVID-19. The debt-laden, Dallas-based company shut all 43 of its sites, including the Plaza Frontenac location, roughly two dozen Last Call stores and its two Bergdorf Goodman stores in New York.

The luxury retailer is in the final stages of negotiating a loan with its creditors totaling hundreds of millions of dollars, which would sustain some of its operations during bankruptcy proceedings, according to Reuters, and has furloughed many of its roughly 14,000 employees.

“I think the Neiman situation is an example of what’s really going on in retail right now. These companies first were facing major liquidity issues, now they’re facing what it’s going to look like to open and then what are (their) sales going to be like,” said former Saks Fifth Avenue CEO, Steve Sadove.

Other retail stores with St. Louis locations that are struggling under the weight of the COVID-19 crisis include:

Pier 1 – Filed for Chapter 11 in February 2020

Art Van Furniture – Filed for Chapter 11 in March 2020

Macy’s – Closing stores and cutting corporate staff

Forever 21– Filed for Chapter 11 in 2019

JC Penney– Contemplating a bankruptcy filing -Reuters

Nordstrom – Borrowing against some of its real estate to stay afloat

Sears – Filed Bankruptcy in 2018; Has lost $12 billion since its last profitable year in 2010.

“These stores are looking at reopening with issues like buyers not wanting to buy inventory that’s been sitting for three months. I think we could see 23% of mall stores not reopen. There could be 400-500 US malls fail over the next year, post-corona virus,” said retail expert, Jan Kniffen, CEO of J Rogers Kniffen WWE, LLC.

The retail graveyard is filled with companies that emerged from bankruptcy with plans to continue to operate but soon went out of business. These include Payless Shoes, Gymboree, American Apparel and RadioShack.