The teen accessory retailer is the worst-rated company in Moody’s retailer portfolio, with a Ca rating—one notch above Moody’s lowest rating—and negative outlook. The retailer has an un-sustainable capital structure coupled with a maturing debt load, and recently undertook two distressed exchanges, says O’Shea. “A lot of things have to go right” for the company to turn around, he notes. Specialty retailers like Claire’s represent the most challenged retail sector, he adds.
The teen apparel retailer filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in May, but emerged from reorganization in September after closing more than 400 stores, according to Retail Dive. Now, the retailer’s secured and unsecured lenders own the majority of the company.
Sears Holding Corp.
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Sears has long been considered a retailer to watch, Brouwer notes. A few days in to the new year, the company announced it would be closing 103 Sears and Kmart stores. From 2016 to 2017, the company announced the shuttering of nearly 600 locations, according to Fung Global Retail & Technology. “I think it’s just a matter of time,” Brouwer says. In early January, Sears Holding CEO Eddie Lampert warned investors that the company would have to consider “all options” if it failed to secure $1 billion in refinancing, according to USA Today. Moody’s rates Sears Holdings Corp. at Caa3, with a negative outlook, and comes after Claire’s on the agency’s list of troubled retailers.
Another specialty store like Claire’s located mostly in malls, Charming Charlie is also a retailer to keep an eye on given the challenges facing stores in the specialty category, Brouwer notes. Charming Charlie shuttered 100 stores and filed for bankruptcy last year. It will be key to watch are how well the chain emerges from bankruptcy to determine its future success, Brouwer says.
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J.C. Penney is another department store chain to watch heading into 2018, Brouwer says. The chain announced the closing of 138 stores in 2017, according to Fung Global Retail & Technology. In October, analysts at big-data startup System2 LLC identified 197 more stores that may be at risk of closure. Closures of J.C. Penney stores—typically an anchor tenant in class-B malls—could also have a more wide-ranging impact in commercial real estate that store closings by in-line tenants, raising the risk of lower quality malls defaulting on their CMBS loans.