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Hardest hit: Who continues to be in danger after final yr’s retail tribulations?

You’d be onerous pressed to discover a retailer that, for higher or worse, was unaffected by COVID-19. 

Whereas some thrived, the pandemic introduced monetary strains if not outright turmoil to many firms. In 2020, Retail Dive tracked 30 main retailers that filed for chapter.

Others, in the meantime, are looking for their footing in a retail atmosphere present process continuous change. The rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine has given each Individuals normally and retailers purpose for hope. Even so, foot site visitors and gross sales to many discretionary retailers stay under 2019 ranges.

That has made beforehand wholesome companies appear extra wobbly than they did in 2019, and closely indebted or weaker operators are much more susceptible.

For these hit hardest financially from the pandemic, it may be an endurance contest to remain afloat till the world returns to some sort of regular. 

“The pandemic just isn’t over. We’ll see change in the course of the course of 2021 in the way in which individuals are shopping for, the place they’re shopping for, how a lot cash they should spend, and what they need to spend it on,” RapidRatings Chairman and CEO James Gellert mentioned in an interview. “However that does not imply that all the retailers simply bounce again, as a result of retailers have been hit so onerous.”

Key to staying afloat in the course of the months forward is entry to money sources. With the Federal Reserve propping up the company bond market and monetary markets extra typically, many retailers that may have been pressured out of business have been capable of elevate capital or refinance. However that may not be the case perpetually. Gellert compares it to a recreation of musical chairs.

“Once you’ve received this a lot entry to capital, there are sort of sufficient chairs that everybody can preserve sitting and getting up and shifting, and sitting and getting up and shifting,” Gellert mentioned. “However these chairs are going to begin getting taken away … and plenty of retailers are going to be left standing.”

To trace firms which might be nonetheless in weak monetary positions after final yr’s struggles, RapidRatings compiled a listing for Retail Dive of 10 publicly traded firms with low scores within the agency’s Monetary Well being Scores. These are a measure of short-term resiliency and default threat primarily based on liquidity, leverage, earnings and different metrics.

Financially weak retail firms
Firm Monetary Well being Score (1-100) Threat stage
Occasion Metropolis 17 Very excessive threat
The Youngsters’s Place 21 Excessive threat
Nordstrom 23 Excessive threat
Specific Inc. 25 Excessive threat
Ceremony Help 27 Excessive threat
Macy’s 29 Excessive threat
Farfetch 30 Excessive threat
GameStop 32 Excessive threat
Burlington Shops 38 Excessive threat
The RealReal 39 Excessive threat

Supply: RapidRatings

“It is a combine of outlets which might be weak sufficient … that they must be watched very fastidiously,” Gellert mentioned. “And watching them fastidiously means with the ability to see what strikes administration makes to proceed weathering the storm.”

This is a better have a look at the businesses on the listing:

Occasion Metropolis

COVID-19 hit proper on the coronary heart of Occasion Metropolis’s enterprise, with graduations, birthday events and different celebrations canceled or downsized as even prolonged members of the family averted gatherings throughout a lot of the nation. Within the first quarter of 2020, the corporate racked up a loss that topped half a billion {dollars}.

Complete income declined 11.4% to $648.2 million within the fourth quarter, which incorporates the necessary Halloween interval for Occasion Metropolis. The corporate’s debt load, a legacy partly of a non-public fairness buyout years in the past, constrains Occasion Metropolis’s margin for error and skill to speculate. Nonetheless, it’s rolling out new capabilities and a brand new retailer format that analysts have lauded for being simpler to buy. The corporate is at the moment trying to elevate greater than $700 million in new bonds that will assist it dodge a serious time period mortgage maturity coming due subsequent yr.

The Youngsters’s Place

Lower than 5 years in the past, The Youngsters’s Place was a retail turnaround poster baby. The kids’s attire firm, led by Jane Elfers, engineered gross sales development and a shift to worthwhile, digital-minded retail whereas others struggled. The firm’s trajectory change was highlighted by the chapter of its peer, Gymboree, which ultimately liquidated. (The Youngsters’s Place picked up Gymboree’s model property within the latter’s second chapter.)

However mall travails, after which the arrival of COVID-19 and attendant college closures, have pressured Youngsters’s Place. Gross sales have fallen for the previous two fiscal years. In 2020, amid pandemic disruption, Youngsters’s Place posted a loss from operations of about $200 million, after years of working within the black. All that mentioned, the retailer beat earnings estimates for This fall 2020. Analysts with Telsey Advisory Group wrote in March that they anticipate “momentum to proceed” as faculties reopen and Youngsters’s Place laps its dismal spring 2020, when its shops quickly closed.


Within the years of the “retail apocalypse” Nordstrom was the exception to the rule: a division retailer with a stable gross sales and buyer base. True, it is gross sales had slipped in 2019, forward of the pandemic, however it was nonetheless a stable performer in a troubled sector, and solidly within the black.

COVID-19 modified all that in a dramatic means, knocking practically $5 billion off Nordstrom’s prime line in 2020. That in flip led to a $690 million loss, after posting practically half a billion {dollars} in internet revenue the earlier yr. Additionally in the course of the yr, the retailer noticed its debt score fall to junk territory for the primary time, a reportedly jarring flip for the Nordstrom household.

Earlier in April, Nordstrom closed on $675 million in new unsecured bonds that free property it put up as collateral for final yr and minimize a few of its curiosity expense.


In January, as Specific Inc. shares had been getting bid up in the identical retail investing frenzy that despatched GameStop hovering, Wedbush analysts threw some chilly water onto the joy. They wrote that the clothes vendor was “hemorrhaging money” as shoppers nonetheless averted dressier attire in the course of the pandemic.  

Specific posted $352.2 million in internet losses and $251.6 million in adverse money flows by means of October, and in December introduced a 10% minimize to its company workforce, its second spherical of layoffs in 2020. The corporate boosted its liquidity and capital by means of a time period mortgage with Sycamore Companions, whose personal fairness arm owns a handful of outlets and attire sellers. 

Ceremony Help 

Together with different drugstores, Ceremony Help’s income rose final yr due to the retailer’s “important” standing throughout spring 2020 and as clients consolidated buying journeys. However the firm nonetheless operated at a loss as of November, partly due to new working bills taken on due to the pandemic, in addition to its debt load and curiosity expense. 

Ceremony Help has lengthy struggled financially, partly as a result of it lacks the dimensions to compete with bigger rivals Walgreens and CVS. Final yr, it purchased itself a while by means of a bond provide that pushed out maturity dates.

Gellert famous that Ceremony Help’s longer-term monetary well being scores are higher than its short-term score. “So capital for Ceremony Help can prop it up for an extended time period, hopefully giving it the prospect to vary and enhance from a long run perspective,” Gellert mentioned. “Besides, relative to its friends in its sub-industry it’s nonetheless weak, each quick and long run.” 


Macy’s posted a lack of practically $Four billion for 2020, which tells you just about all the things you might want to know in regards to the division retailer chain’s yr. An organization that’s used to being within the black, the pandemic shredded its gross sales and, with them, its backside line.

Prospects each stayed away from indoor malls and pulled again on attire spending as they averted work and social gatherings. Whereas liquidity considerations surrounded the corporate within the early weeks of the COVID-19 disaster, Macy’s raised billions in money from new debt and now has ample liquidity. However there is no telling but when gross sales will return to 2019 ranges or develop previous them. Executives mentioned this yr they’ve “up to date and accelerated” the division retailer’s turnaround technique, which might overhaul its provide chain, digital, brick-and-mortar and merchandising operations.  


As luxurious market Farfetch’s revenues have grown, so have its losses. Income in 2020 hit practically $1.7 billion. On the similar time, working losses grew by greater than 50% yr over yr, coming in at $619.eight million. With Farfetch’s on-line mannequin are the steep prices of buying and retaining clients. The corporate expresses it pretty succinctly itself when it notes to buyers, “Now we have skilled losses previously, and we could expertise losses sooner or later.” Producing larger gross sales and new tech developments are each key to reaching profitability.

Even with its losses, the fast-growing luxurious darling has drawn in additional than $1 billion in investments from Alibaba and different {industry} gamers.


There was a time not way back when buyers handled GameStop like a useless retailer strolling. A Blockbuster Video-like collapse and obsoletion was priced right into a inventory that traded at just some {dollars} for a lot of the previous two years. Its 2019 gross sales fell dramatically, after which the pandemic yr was likewise onerous on GameStop, forcing it to shut its shops for a number of weeks in the course of the spring. 

Losses and doubt within the funding world gave method to euphoria for causes that go effectively past GameStop’s working traits. Past its Reddit-driven inventory explosion, the retailer has welcomed in activist investor Ryan Cohen, founder and former CEO of Chewy, who’s spearheading from the board a metamorphosis of GameStop towards e-commerce and different digital performs. However up to now, GameStop has disclosed little or no about its supposed path to transformation. 

“The GameStop story is all about their skill to vary from bricks and mortar,” Gellert mentioned. “And it needs to be discouraging to everybody that of their final earnings name, they mainly averted the query of how they’re planning on doing that.”

Burlington Shops

For greater than a decade off-price has been one of the crucial reliably increasing sectors in retail. The pandemic, nevertheless, had an outsized affect on gross sales within the sector, which has traditionally resisted shifts to e-commerce due to its mannequin. Only a couple weeks earlier than retailers began shuttering their footprints en masse to combat the unfold of COVID-19, Burlington introduced it was shutting down its on-line enterprise to concentrate on retailer gross sales.

The vaccine rollout will possible assist the sector alongside, however the pandemic has already taken a toll on Burlington, which lacks the dimensions of TJX Cos. and Ross Shops within the house. Burlington’s gross sales fell 21% in 2020 because it swung to a $216 million loss.

The RealReal

The pandemic sophisticated the market and operations for consignment retailers and resellers. Luxurious-focused The RealReal misplaced thousands and thousands off its prime line in 2020, after experiencing large development the yr earlier than. As its gross sales fell, working losses ballooned to $172.eight million — powerful for a corporation nonetheless attempting to achieve profitability after previous years of losses. CEO Julie Wainwright mentioned in February after the corporate’s This fall that it exited the yr with “momentum” and was “optimistic in regards to the yr forward.”

Together with the pandemic, The RealReal suffered a reputational hit in 2019 when some media uncovered cracks in its much-touted authentication program. (The corporate took concern with the characterization of its program in a CNBC report.)


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