A Sports Authority store in California, US. -Reuters
An unexpected helping hand from creditors, landlords and vendors is allowing more US retailers to stay in business following bankruptcy with most of their stores and employees in the fold. The new approach marks a turning point for the beleaguered sector, which has seen at least 19 brick-and-mortar retail chains shut down the bulk of their operations since 2014.
Until this year, most bankrupt retailers, including American Apparel, Sports Authority and The Limited, were dismantled during their bankruptcy process. Investors and companies acquired their intellectual property and other assets, but refused to take on their business as a going concern because they saw little value in assuming costly store leases. Instead, they often opted to revamp some of the battered brands online.
However, several creditors, landlords and vendors now see more value left in some retailers, and are seizing on an opportunity to minimize their own losses in the retail rout. This could spell a slowdown in the decline in brick-and-mortar retail jobs, which fell by more than 100,000 this year, as more than 6,000 stores shuttered under increasing pressure from competition among traditional retailers as well as e-commerce firms such as Amazon.com Inc.
"We're seeing a set of situations come together in which the constituencies have more interest in the retailer surviving than not," said Holly Etlin, a managing director at AlixPartners LLP, a consulting firm that worked on the bankruptcy of Gymboree.
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