The 10 biggest retail bankruptcies of 2020

This year, Neiman Marcus and J.C. Penney joined the ranks of some of the biggest retail bankruptcies on record, including Sears, Toys R Us and Circuit City.

More than three dozen retailers, including the nation’s oldest department store chain, filed for bankruptcy this year, marking an 11-year high.

Pre-pandemic, several of these retailers were already teetering on the brink of survival. But the Covid health crisis pummeled the industry. Lockdown orders put in place in March to slow the spread of the virus turned into prolonged store closures for many businesses that didn’t sell essential items like groceries. Retailers that started 2020 already in a tough spot were hit harder. Liquidity was strained and sales went into a freefall.

“The magnitude of bankruptcies has been larger this year compared to previous years,” said David Berliner, chief of BDO’s business restructuring and turnaround practice. “You’re noticing national brands and other prominent franchises, that had hundreds of stores, now being liquidated or going through a restructure to salvage what they can.”

About 60% of the retailers that had filed for bankruptcy in 2020 through August listed more than $100 million in assets, compared with 50% of filings during the same period in 2019 and 36% in 2018, Berliner said.

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