October 28, 2020

‘A scary number’ of retail companies are facing bankruptcy amid the coronavirus pandemic

GNC has walked through death’s door after knocking on it for years. And it’s likely others will follow suit this year as the COVID-19 pandemic continues its devastation of America’s retail sector.

The 85-year-old vitamin seller filed for bankruptcy on Wednesday after years of battling waning sales and a debt load north of $1 billion. GNC plans to shutter up to 1,200 stores across the U.S. The company operates more than 5,800 stores.

Meantime, fellow debt-laden mall dweller J.C. Penney said on Tuesday it will close another 13 stores as part of its recent bankruptcy filing. The company told the courts in May it would shutter a total of 250 stores by the end of summer 2021, leaving it with a shade under 600 locations.

To be sure, 2020 is shaping up to be one of the deadliest ever for the former icons of the mall and various shopping centers. The pandemic has kept stores closed for months and sent sales for the sector into a tailspin. With consumers only slowly venturing back out to stores after months of being quarantined, retailers are being faced with the reality they need fewer stores open…or should no longer be in business at all.

“Some companies are just not going to survive this,” says McGrail, who is the COO of one of the world’s largest asset disposition and valuation firms, Tiger Capital Group. Its McGrail’s team — which often includes store associates of a stricken retailer — that hangs the “Everything must go” signs and works to fetch top dollar on fixtures and other inventory.

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