Retail

Aéropostale — Living To Fight Another Day?

Yogi Berra once famously said, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.”

Apparently, it ain’t over at Aéropostale just yet.

Despite being bankrupt and reports this week indicating that liquidation is imminent, a consortium of bidders made up of the nation’s two largest mall owners (Simon Property Group and General Growth Properties) have placed a “going concern” bid for Aéropostale.

If accepted, those assets could keep the chain alive with a much reduced footprint of 229 stores.

The filing in Manhattan bankruptcy court did not specify the bid amount, though Wall Street Journal reports indicated the offer was for $243.3 million. Aéropostale has been plagued by falling foot traffic, dwindling sales and a basic loss of teenage and tweenage consumer interest to up-and-coming chains, like H&M, Zara and Forever 21, which skipped the heavily branded and logoed apparel that Aéropostale specialized in and are known for varying their stock much more rapidly.

Simon and GGP were joined in the bid by Authentic Brands and liquidators Gordon Brothers Retail Partners and Hilco Merchant Resources. The latest filing indicates that, if the consortium does not win the bid, Hilco, Gordon Brothers and Authentic Brands Group will try to claim the chain’s merchandise and intellectual property in a liquidation sale.

GGP and Simon have some incentive to save Aéropostale, as mall traffic is sluggish and there have been a lot of “mall chain” retail bankruptcies in 2016: American Apparel, Wet Seal, Quicksilver, Pacific Sunwear, Sports Authority and Vestis Retail (parent of Eastern Mountain Sports).

But Aéropostale has been something of a special case this year, as the retailer has accused its lender, Sycamore Partners, of intentionally colluding with a a supplier it controlled to drive Aéropostale into bankruptcy so it could be purchased for a low price at auction.

If that was the plan, it turned out not to be a very good one. The judge overseeing the case rejected that claim and said Sycamore could make a bid in the form of $150 million in debt it is owed rather than cash.

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