Claire's filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection this week. The company, which operates fashion jewelry stores in thousands of malls, is looking to shed debt and emerge from bankruptcy before the holiday season.
Hoffman Estates, Ill.--Claire’s Stores Inc., the mass-market fashion jewelry retailer also known for being a place to get your ears pierced, has filed for bankruptcy.

Claire’s filed Chapter 11 in Delaware bankruptcy court, the company said in a statement released Monday.

Claire’s Stores operates two chains, Claire’s and Icing, which targets older shoppers. It sells its products in more than 7,500 locations in 45 countries around the world through company-owned stores, concessions and franchise locations. More than 5,300 of those locations (about 71 percent) are in the United States.

It also said it has pierced more than 100 million ears worldwide.

The retailer’s struggles come largely from a deal it made more than a decade ago--private equity firm Apollo Management bought Claire’s for $3.1 billion in 2007 and took the company private in a leveraged buyout--that left it saddled with debt.

The company also grapples with increased competition from the likes of Walmart and fast-fashion retailers such as H&M, and declining mall traffic.

Even though Claire’s was profitable in 2017, reporting net income of $29 million during the fiscal year, its revenue has slipped from $1.5 billion to $1.3 billion over the past few years. 

Just before filing Chapter 11, the company entered into a restructuring plan agreed to by some of its largest lenders and led by Elliott Management Corporation and Monarch Alternative Capital. The plan is expected to reduce its debt by $1.9 billion.

The company said it will continue to operate the approximately 1,600 Claire’s and Icing brand stores in the United States during the bankruptcy process, which it expects to be complete by September. Its international stores aren’t part of the restructuring agreement.

It also said it expects a big expansion in its concessions business—selling branded products at other retailers—by about 4,000 locations this year, but plans to close underperforming company-operated stores while renegotiating leases on others over the next five years, Claire’s said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

“This transaction substantially reduces the debt on our balance sheet and will enhance our efforts to provide the best possible experience for our customers,” CEO Ron Marshall said. “We will complete this process as a healthier, more profitable company, which will position us to be an even stronger business partner for our suppliers, concessions partners, and franchisees.”

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