Another Huge Mall Retailer Nearing Bankruptcy, Fate Of 500 Stores Unknown

By Dave Basner

April 15, 2024

Photo: Getty Images

If you've walked into a mall recently, you've probably noticed things inside have changed over the past few years. There are likely many more empty spaces where stores used to be. Plenty of mall staples, including Foot Locker and Bath & Body Works, have been closing locations as a cost-cutting measure, while other chains, like The Body Shop, have shuttered all stores amid bankruptcy. Now, Express might be joining their ranks.

Following consecutive quarters of losses in the tens of millions, Express is at a "high default risk," according to Rapid Ratings, which uses publicly-available data to assess a company's financial health. The news isn't too surprising, since the chain was hit hard during the pandemic, when there wasn't as much of a demand for the business casual apparel they sold. Things haven't improved either, as consumers aren't shopping at Express as much, opting instead for athleisure wear in place of the clothes that Express sells. The company closed 91 stores to offset the losses in 2020, but have not yet been able to turn things around, and in March, the New York Stock Exchange delisted the stock. Shares of their stock are now worth under a dollar, when in 2012 they traded as high as $500.

The company hasn't commented on a potential bankruptcy, but they also haven't had an earnings call since November. However, at that point, CEO Stewart Glendinning seemed optimistic about the future. He stated, "Our third quarter sales and diluted loss per share came in below the low end of our outlook ranges. The macroeconomic environment remains challenging and the consumer and competitive landscapes were highly promotional... Across the board, we have opportunities to improve our operating execution. This includes cycle times, in-store execution, sourcing logistics, all parts of our business which allow us to serve customers, lower our cost base and beat the competition." He also noted that they likely will close underperforming stores.

Insiders say the 40-year-old fast fashion retailer is readying a debt restructuring that could include filing for bankruptcy, per the Wall Street Journal, and according to Bloomberg, the company has been having meetings regarding a potential bankruptcy filing. If that does happen, there is no word on what will become of the brand's 530 Express and Express Factory Outlet stores in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. However, regardless of if they declare bankruptcy or not, it is almost certain some locations will be closing in the near future.

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