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Express files for bankruptcy, plans to close nearly 100 stores

4/22: CBS Morning News
4/22: CBS Morning News 20:32

Express has filed for bankruptcy and plans to close nearly 100 of its 500 retail locations, the Columbus, Ohio-based clothing retailer said on Monday.

Express reported nearly $1.2 billion in total debts and $1.3 billion in total assets in its Chapter 11 petition, which was filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware.

The company said Monday that it had received a commitment for $35 million in new financing, which is subject to court approval, from some existing lenders. That would add to the $49 million in cash that Express obtained earlier this month from the Internal Revenue Service related to the pandemic-era CARES Act.

Closing sales at Express, a source of modestly priced outfits for more than 40 years, begin on Tuesday at around 95 of the its stores, including all of its UpWest locations, the company said in a statement.

The company operates some 530 Express retail and Express Factory Outlet stores in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, in addition to roughly 60 Bonobos Guideshop locations, a dozen UpWest stores as well as online operations for these brands, according to its website. 

Revenue at Express has cratered in recent years, with the company's latest results showing sales down nearly 10% from the same period in 2019, noted Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData.

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The company's woes are not entirely of its own making, according to Saunders. "The formal and smart casual market for both men and women has softened over recent years because of a rise from working from home and the casualization of fashion. This puts Express firmly on the wrong side of trends and, in our view, the chain made too little effort to adapt," he stated.

Still, poor decisions worsened its problems, said Saunders, who cited the fashion retailer's choice of "someone from the meat industry as CEO" as among them. Express in September appointed former Tyson Foods executive Stewart Glendinning to lead the company. 

Express plans to use the Chapter 11 process to facilitate a sale of the company's operations and most of its stores to brand manager WHP Global and mall landlords Simon Property Group and Brookfield Properties. 

New York-based WHP Global's portfolio includes Toys "R" Us, Isaac Mizrahi and Rag & Bone. It owns 60% of the Express brand via a joint venture formed last year. 

Express is working with A&G Realty Partners in an ongoing review of its store footprint, it said.

The company's bankruptcy follows the same step earlier this month by 99 Cents Only Stores and hobby chain Joann in March.

— With reporting by the Associated Press.

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