10 Of The Largest Retail Bankruptcies Since 2016

Sears Holdings Corp SHLD's years-long struggle in a tough retail environment culminated in the department store filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection this week.

A Chapter 11 bankruptcy facilitates reorganization of a company through a plan to keep its business alive and pay creditors over time.

The following are 10 of the most notable filings in a wave of retail bankruptcies since 2016, according to a larger list of 57 recent retail bankruptcies compiled by CB Insights


Discount jewelry chain Claire's, popular for its ear piercing,, filed for bankruptcy in March 2018, aiming to reduce a ballooning debt pile that amounted to $1.9 billion. Incidentally, Claire's, which was once a public company, went private in 2007 after it was bought by Apollo Global Management in 2007.

Claire's emerged from bankruptcy just seven months after the filing. 

Toys R US

Unable to pay back the $5 billion in debt, retail toy chain Toys R US filed for bankruptcy in September 2017. The company couldn't survive the reorganization and had to close down for good in March 2018.

Payless Shoes  

Payless Shoes sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in April 2017, unable to handle its mammoth debt load and a slump in sales. The company emerged from bankruptcy in August 2017 with a renewed focus on the U.S., Latin America and Asia.

See Also: Sears Bankruptcy 'Another Blow' To Apparel Supplier Iconix


Electronics store retailer RadioShack seems to have zeroed in on bankruptcy as a tested formula for survival. After posting losses for 11 straight quarters, the retailer filed for bankruptcy in February 2015 only to emerge a month later following its purchase by General Wireless.

RadioShack yet again filed for bankruptcy in March 2017, as its partnership with Sprint Corp S — one of the foundations of its return to health — fell through. The company exited its second bankruptcy trip in January. 


Teen apparel retailer Aeropostale wasn't spared by the malaise that has come to plague the retail world, as it was forced to file for bankruptcy in May 2016. The company exited bankruptcy in September of that year following some cleanup effors that included closure of stores in the U.S. and Canada and an acquisition by a consortium. 

Sports Authority  

Sporting goods retailer Sports Authority filed for Chapter 11 in March 2016, but it was converted to a Chapter 7 filing after a few months. Chapter 7 is a plan where a company's non-exempt property is liquidated and the proceeds are paid to creditors.


After defaulting on a debt payment, children's clothing retailer Gymboree filed for Chapter 11 in June 2017 and emerged in September. 

Wet Seal  

Wet Seal, a women's apparel retailer, filed for Chapter 11 twice: once in March 2015 and subsequently in February 2017.

Pacific Sunwear of California  

Pacific Sunwear of California, another teen apparel retailer, went through the trauma of Chapter 11 in April 2016 and subsequently emerged in September 2016 after being acquired by the private equity firm Golden Gate Capital.   


Department store chain Bon-Ton had its tryst with Chapter 11 protection in February and is clawing its way back. As recently as September, tech company CSC Generation Holdings purchased Bon-Ton's websites, customer lists and intellectual property, bringing the retailer and its products back to customers.

Related Links:

How The Toys 'R' Us Bankruptcy Impacted July's Jobs Data 

Sears Bankruptcy 'Another Blow' To Apparel Supplier Iconix

Photo by Perth Jaywalker/Wikimedia. 

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