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Clothing retailer Express files for bankruptcy

Illustration of a gavel about to come down on a hand that is reaching for a large number eleven.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Express, a mall-based clothing retailer, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in Delaware, it said in a statement this morning.

The big picture: The filing facilitates a sale to a group led by brand management firm WHP Global that includes mall operators Simon Property Group and Brookfield Properties.

  • To facilitate the deal, Express filed for bankruptcy and received a commitment of $35 million in financing from some of its existing lenders.
  • The company also received $49 million in cash on April 15 from the IRS tied to the CARES Act.

Flashback: More than a year ago Express put its brand IP in a joint venture with WHP, parting with 60% of its value in exchange for $260 million.

  • It was attempting a turnaround under previous CEO Tim Baxter with a plan to open non-mall locations and recast its sales associates as stylists.
  • The company, which includes Bonobos and UpWest, was delisted from the New York Stock Exchange in March.

Thought bubble: The company struggled against competition from faster, cheaper and trendier versions of itself.

  • While Express was initially a stable business after being separated in 2007 from former parent L Brands, which also owned banners such as Victoria's Secret and Bath & Body Works, it became lost in a sea of fast fashion rivals.

The intrigue: Last year, Simon's CEO David Simon said he didn't expect any more retail acquisitions, but the mall owner is in the mix again.

Zoom out: The pace of retail bankruptcies is back to a normalized level, which includes those of JoAnn and 99 Cents Only Stores, after a flood in 2020 followed by a dearth of them in the following two years.

Go deeper: Retail bankruptcy tracker

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