The Struggling Stores Most Likely to Go Belly-Up Next

1. J.C. Penney

Muncie - Circa March 2017: JC Penney Retail Mall Location. JCP is an Apparel and Home Furnishing Retailer VIIIJonathan Weiss / Shutterstock

This shopping mall mainstay has been through some rough times over the past decade. J.C. Penney is in a tough spot, because it doesn’t sell premium items, but it also can’t claim the lowest prices.

Penney famously did away with coupons a few years ago and tried an everyday-low-prices strategy, but that bombed — because shoppers were unhappy to lose the coupons.

Now, the department store company is being squeezed by Amazon and other online retailers, and by wildly popular discount chains such as T.J. Maxx, Marshalls, Ross and Burlington Coat Factory.

2. Neiman Marcus

MILLBURN, NJ - AUG 9: Neiman Marcus store at The Mall at Short Hills in Millburn, New Jersey, as seen on Aug 9, 2015.Ritu Manoj Jethani / Shutterstock

As a luxury retailer whose stores have been a premier destination for upscale shoppers, Neiman Marcus was initially able to fend off the threat from online sellers.

But shopping habits continue to evolve, even among the well-to-do. So, Neiman’s has been investing in e-commerce and digital technologies — and taking on debt in the process.

The interest charges are now catching up with the company, even though sales have rebounded. If Neiman Marcus cannot manage its debt load, bankruptcy reorganization may be its only hope.

3. Sears

Fairfax, USA - February 18, 2017: Sears sign outside with broken lettersAndriy Blokhin / Shutterstock

The Amazon of its day — from its founding in 1892 through the heyday of the shopping mall — Sears used to be a one-stop-shop for millions of Americans.

But over the past decade, Sears’ sales numbers and stock price have been sliding. Parent company Sears Holdings has responded by closing hundreds of its Sears and Kmart stores.

The company has been able to stay afloat thanks to a cash infusion from a hedge fund owned by CEO Eddie Lampert. But now that money is running out, and consumers still aren’t rushing out to buy anything from Sears.

4. J. Crew

HONG KONG - 4 July, 2018: J. Crew store in Hong Kong.lentamart / Shutterstock

Twenty-five years ago, J. Crew was a catalog-only niche retailer selling barn jackets and rugby shirts. The late 1990s and the 2000s saw a rapid expansion into retail locations.

Then, the brand sought to go upscale — but that approach tanked. The stores have been losing more money each year, with 2017’s losses totaling $125 million.

And it gets worse: J. Crew also has been carrying $2 billion in debt. As sales continue to decline, bankruptcy might inevitable.

5. Bebe

Winneconne, WI - 9 March 2018: A close up shot of a bebe los angeles purse logo on an isolated background.Keith Homan / Shutterstock

Women’s fashion and accessories retailer Bebe was once a mall staple. But, like so many mall stores, it experienced a drastic reduction in foot traffic and lost business to online merchants.

Bebe was teetering on the edge of bankruptcy last year. But it avoided a bankruptcy filing by making a rather graceful exit from brick-and-mortar retail, spinning into a largely online operation.

But even after shoring up defenses, the company continued to post losses in 2017.

6. GNC

SINGAPORE-JAN 12, 2016: Front of General Nutrition Corporation (GNC) store in Singapore.Trong Nguyen / Shutterstock

Longtime mall regular GNC is under serious pressure from e-tailers, including Amazon.

That’s because GNC’s stores sell vitamins and supplements — products that don’t always enjoy brand loyalty from consumers.

In 2016, the company closed all of its stores for one day so it could overhaul its pricing and give its marketing a facelift. But sales don’t appear to be muscling up quite the way the management had hoped.

7. Office Depot

Ft. Wayne - Circa August 2017: Office Depot Strip Mall Location. Office Depot has combined annual sales of approximately $11 billion IVJonathan Weiss / Shutterstock

Office Depot has been losing out to online competitors offering wide selections of office products and speedy shipping.

The company tried to power up by merging with Staples, but that plan was shot down by regulators fearful of a copy paper monopoly.

Now, Office Depot is trying to focus more on business services, not just pens and paper. But lagging sales and $1 billion in debt may hurt the company’s long-term chances.

8. Pier 1

Las Vegas - Circa July 2017: Pier 1 Imports Retail Strip Mall Location. Pier 1 Imports Home Furnishings and Decor VJonathan Weiss / Shutterstock

Furnishings retailer Pier 1 will need to light some scented candles and find its Zen if it wants to save itself from bankruptcy. Its sales were down more than 9% in the most recent quarter, continuing a downward trend for the chain.

Pier 1 wants to reinvent itself and invest more in e-commerce, but finding funding for all of that will be tricky because the company’s credit rating was downgraded recently.

To top it off, Pier 1 gets a majority of its products from China, and the Trump administration’s tariffs stand to give the company an extra financial burden, Retail Dive reports.

9. Fred’s Pharmacy

A Fred's pharmacy storeFred’s / Facebook

Sales have been sagging at Fred’s Pharmacy, a drugstore and discount chain that operates primarily in the southeastern U.S.

The company’s efforts to turn itself around have included a recent sale of its specialty pharmacy business to CVS for $40 million.

In June 2018, Fred’s announced it was seeking advice on a sale of the rest of its retail pharmacies.

10. 99 Cents Only Stores

A 99 Cents Only Store in Los AngelesThomas Hawk / Flickr

Dollar stores tend to be recession-proof, but they are not a fool-proof business model. There’s a lot of competition, and the 99 Cents Only Stores chain has been getting clobbered by Dollar General, Dollar Tree and even Walmart.

Rivals have been re-imagining the dollar store shopping experience by providing cleaner stores that offer more groceries and household staples.

While sales have been growing at 99 Cents Only Stores, the chain has been losing money because of operating expenses that eat into profit margins.

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