Forever 21 files for bankruptcy; closing up to 178 U.S. stores

Forever 21, the retailer that popularized fast-fashion in the U.S., filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection with a plan to close most of its global locations. 

The filing by the privately held, family-run chain, which operates 815 stores worldwide, was not unexpected as it comes after weeks of speculation. The formerly high-flying Forever 21 has struggled in recent years, challenged by over-expansion, increased competition from discounters such as Target and the rise of online subscription services and rental retail. Online resale (secondhand) sites have also grown in popularity. 

Forever 21 said it has obtained $275 million in financing from its existing lenders with JPMorgan Chase and $75 million in new capital from TPG Sixth Street Partners, as well as affiliated funds, to help it support its operations in bankruptcy. As part of its restructuring strategy, the company plans to exit most of its international locations in Asia and Europe as well as in Canada. It has requested approval to shutter up to 178 U.S. stores and up to 350 in total, the New York Times reported. (The retailer will continue operations in Mexico and Latin America.)

“This was an important and necessary step to secure the future of our company, which will enable us to reorganize our business and reposition Forever 21,” said Linda Chang, executive VP of Forever 21, which is based in Los Angeles.

In a letter to customers, the retailer stated that “the decisions as to which domestic [U.S.] stores will be closing are ongoing, pending the outcome of continued conversations with landlords.”

“We do however expect a significant number of these stores will remain open and operate as usual, and we do not expect to exit any major markets in the U.S.,” stated Forever 21.

The company announced it intends to operate in a business as usual manner, honoring all company policies, including gift cards, returns, exchanges, reimbursement and sale purchases. Forever 21 said it will the bankruptcy “to right size its store base and return to basics that allowed the company to thrive and grow into the fast fashion leader.”

“The financing provided by JPMorgan and TPG Sixth Street Partners will arm Forever 21 with the capital necessary to effect critical changes in the U.S. and abroad to revitalize our brand and fuel our growth, allowing us to meet our ongoing obligations to customers, vendors and employees,” Chang said. “With support from our key landlord and vendor constituents, we are confident we will emerge as a stronger, more competitive enterprise that is better positioned to prosper for years to come, and we remain committed to delivering the fast fashion trends that our customers have come to expect from Forever 21.”

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