By Lenore Fedow
A store closing sign looms large in the men’s section of Barneys New York. The luxury retailer was one of many that filed for bankruptcy protection this year.
I have been the bearer of bad news many times this year, covering a variety of bankruptcies and store closures.

I’ve returned to rain on your retail parade one final time in 2019 with this list of some of the stores we said goodbye to this year.

Samuels Jewelers

20191218 Samuels JewelersThe Texas-based retailer filed for bankruptcy last year, but its stores officially closed in February. (Image courtesy of Samuels Jewelers’ Facebook page)

Samuels Jewelers filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in August 2018, but its remaining stores closed their doors this year.

The Austin, Texas-based retailer had been in bankruptcy court before, having filed for Chapter 11 twice under its former name, Barry’s, and again as Samuels Jewelers in 2003.

The chain struggled with a common culprit, increasing competition from online and discount retailers, but its parent company’s entanglement in legal drama didn’t help either.

Indian company Gitanjali Gems Ltd. acquired Samuels in 2006. Gitanjali wanted to vertically integrate the retailer by supplying the stores with jewelry crafted at its factories in India.

But a $2 billion bank scandal in India allegedly involving, among others, Gitanjali Chairman Mehul Choksi resulted in the chain losing its source of both funding and product.

Ultimately, Samuels Jewelers, which dates back to 1891, shuttered its 120 stores in February.

Barneys New York

20191218 BarneysA store closing sign in the window of Barneys New York’s flagship on Madison Avenue. The chain filed for bankruptcy in August amid rising costs and slipping sales.
Barneys New York, a mainstay in the world of luxe New York department stores, will soon close its doors.

The retailer filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in August in New York amid soaring costs and declining sales.

Fans of the luxury chain would not let it go quietly, especially not Sam Ben-Avraham, co-founder of streetwear brand Kith.

Ben-Avraham wrote an open letter on, hoping to garner signatures for a petition to save the store and rally potential investors to the cause, but it was not to be.

Ultimately, the department store’s assets were sold to licensing company Authentic Brands Group and investment bank B. Riley Financial Inc.

I stopped by its flagship Madison Avenue location last month to check out its store closing sale and bid farewell to a store beloved by generations of New Yorkers.

Barneys as we know it today is nearly finished, but its name may live on.

Authentic Brands is reportedly planning to license the Barneys name to Hudson’s Bay Co., owner of Saks Fifth Avenue, to open Barneys shop-in-shops within Saks stores and allow HBC to operate the Barneys website.

Payless ShoeSource

20191218 PaylessPayless ShoeSource filed for bankruptcy in February, shuttering its 2,500 stores. (Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

This was the hardest bankruptcy of the year for me.

You can take away Barneys, a place I could never afford to shop anyway, but Payless? Now you’ve gone too far.

I went through tons of low-price Payless shoes when I was a child, from black faux-leather Mary Janes to wear with my school uniform to light-up running sneakers with neon laces.

My favorite shoes ever, a pair of patchwork denim clogs I wore to shreds, were from Payless. I daydream about recreating a pair of these 2000s wonders for modern-day me.

I took it hard when Payless filed for bankruptcy protection in February, announcing the closure of its 2,500 stores.

The chain first filed for bankruptcy protection in April 2017, closing hundreds of stores, and seemed to have made progress.

But between holding $470 million in outstanding debt and struggling in an increasingly competitive retail market, recovery was not in the cards.

I took advantage of a Payless store closing sale, snagging a pair of cozy black loafers.

I was proud of myself for being such a savvy shopper, but pride turned to embarrassment a few weeks later when the shoes tore at the edges on both sides in the middle of the workday.

As nostalgic as I felt about Payless, the quality wasn’t there and the prices weren’t as low as I remembered from my school days.

However, Payless is still operating in Latin America and selling a selection of shoes via Amazon, if you’re looking for a walk down memory lane.

Charming Charlie

20191218 Charming CharlieCharming Charlie’s New York City flagship on Fifth Avenue. The accessories retailer filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in July, announcing plans to close all 261 locations.
Charming Charlie, the accessories store known for its color-coded displays, was also on the chopping block this year.

The Houston-based retailer filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in July with plans to close all of its 261 locations the following month.

The chain was perched atop a mountain of debt, $81.8 million to be exact, with $6,000 in cash on hand, as per a court filing.

Its operating expenses, including “onerous leases” and constrained liquidity under its existing loans, weighed heavily on the retailer, Chief Financial Officer Alvaro Bellon said in court filings.

Looking to boost its credit line, the company had to buy more lower-quality inventory to expand its borrowing base.

But the subpar inventory wasn’t up to the standards its customers had come to expect, and ultimately, led to markdowns and lower margins.

I had only visited a Charming Charlie store once or twice, but it seemed like a nice place to get a gift or some costume jewelry, available in almost any color, but I wouldn’t call it high-quality merchandise.

However, there may be a happy ending here after all.

There could be new Charming Charlie stores as soon as next year, as the brand’s founder and CEO Charles Chanaratsopon was the one who placed the winning bid for his company’s intellectual property.

The store will return as an online-focused retailer, Chanaratsopon said, with a few pop-up shops and permanent locations no bigger than 4,000 square feet, about half the size of its previous stores.


20191218 Shopko storeDepartment store chain Shopko, which served the Midwest, closed its 370 locations this year. (Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
This is terribly New York-centric of me, but I had never heard of Shopko.

That’s probably because its locations were mostly in the heartland, particularly in its home state of Wisconsin.

Nevertheless, it’s more than worthy of a place on the list after shuttering its 370 locations this year.

The department store chain, owned by private equity firm Sun Capital, declared bankruptcy in January as a result of its mounting debt and the pressure of competition.

The stores were mainly located in smaller cities, a turf where Walmart and Target reign supreme, Eric Snyder, partner at New York-based law firm Wilk Auslander, explained to Retail Dive.

The company established a plan for financial restructuring, but decided to liquidate rather than move forward with an auction after it was unable to find a buyer.

Looking to the silver lining, Shopko Optical, its eye care services branch, is still in business.

The company announced last week that it will open 80 free-standing optical centers in the coming months and an additional 35 locations in 2020.


20191218 Dressbarn storeDressbarn shuttered all its stores this year, but may return as an e-tailer in 2020. (Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
Dressbarn is also in its final days, as the women’s clothing store chain is expected to close all 650 of its stores no later than the day after Christmas.

A trend I noticed as I wrote this article is that many of the stores closing their doors are stores I haven’t spent much time visiting.

And, speaking of trends, like Charming Charlie and Payless, Dressbarn’s goods will still be sold online.

The retailer sold its intellectual property assets to a subsidiary of Retail Ecommerce Ventures LLC.

A new website is expected to launch in 2020 with a revamped look and feel.

Dressbarn is owned by Ascena Retail Group, which also owns Ann Taylor, Loft, Lane Bryant, Catherines, Cacique and Justice.

Honorable Mentions

While the following retailers are not gone for good, they’ve shed enough stores this year to earn a mention.

Gymboree: 805 stores
Charlotte Russe: 520 stores
Family Dollar: 390 stores
Forever 21: Up to 350 stores
Destination Maternity: 258 stores
Chico’s: 250 stores
Gap: 230 stores
Walgreens: 200 stores
Sears: 175 stores
Kmart: 160 stores
Signet Jewelers: 150 stores
A.C. Moore: 145 stores
CVS: 68 stores
Bed Bath & Beyond: 60 stores
Pier 1 Imports: 57 stores
Party City: 55 stores
Victoria’s Secret: 53 stores
JCPenney: 27 stores

This blog has admittedly been heavy on the doom and gloom, but I don’t think the so-called retail apocalypse is upon us, a topic I wrote about in a previous blog post.

Retail is definitely changing, but I view it as more of a renaissance than the end times.

The chains listed here that couldn’t make it work with physical stores may have a second chance at life online.

So, let’s pour one out for the retailers we’ve lost this year and raise our glasses to a revamped retail landscape in 2020.

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