Report: Last-gasp bid could save Aeropostale from liquidation

Dive Brief:

  • Landlords, liquidators and licensing firm Authentic Brands Group are uniting in a last-ditch effort to save 229 Aeropostale stores from imminent closure, making a surprise $243.3 million joint bid for the teen apparel retailer at a bankruptcy auction, the Wall Street Journal reports.
  • Citing sources familiar with the matter, the Journal states the consortium includes landlords Simon Property Group and General Growth Properties as well as liquidators Gordon Brothers Retail Partners and Hilco Merchant Resources.
  • Private equity firm Sycamore Partners (an Aeropostale stakeholder) and liquidators submitted bids for the retailer last week, while investment firm Versa Capital Management — which was reportedly preparing a “stalking horse” bid  — did not. An auction scheduled to begin Monday in New York was adjourned Tuesday to allow the consortium’s deal more time to come together. Sycamore declined to comment on the developments, according to the Journal.

Dive Insight:

Maybe Aeropostale isn’t dead after all.

Aeropostale seemed to lose its best remaining chance at a comeback last week when a U.S. bankruptcy judge ruled that Sycamore Partners could use the $150 million it’s owed by Aeropostale to bid at the retailer’s bankruptcy auction. Sycamore has been a thorn in Aeropostale’s side not only throughout the bankruptcy process, but ever since the retailer sold a major stake to Sycamore in 2014. That deal, which included an agreement to source with Sycamore-owned clothing manufacturer and supply chain management company MGF, is a major reason Aeropostale wound up on the brink of collapse, at least according to the chain’s version of events. (Sycamore argues that mismanagement, not its sourcing stipulations, is to blame.)

Sycamore, which has insisted that liquidation is the best outcome for Aeropostale, placed a bid at the bankruptcy auction this week, as did liquidator duo Tiger Capital Group and Great American Group. Aeropostale’s attorney earlier told the court that a Sycamore offer would likely preclude any other bids, prompting most observers to consign the chain to the scrap heap of history.

But in an absolutely stunning turn of events, Authentic Brands Group and its partners are now rewriting the end of the Aeropostale saga. In fact, if the consortium gets their way, it may not be the end at all.

Even if Aeropostale does somehow survive, the retailer still faces extraordinarily long odds. Besides its myriad disputes with Sycamore, Aeropostale has consistently failed to update its merchandising to keep pace with evolving consumer preferences, staying the course as rivals American Eagle and Abercrombie & Fitch veered away from the logo-centric fashions that have fallen from favor with today’s teens. Aeropostale also faces unique challenges, including a customer base that skews younger than other teen apparel stores, experts told Retail Dive.

“Aeropostale had this really strong brand in early 2000, but once the hoodies and graphic tees went out of style, Aero didn’t find a replacement strategy,” Shelley E. Kohan, VP of retail consulting at store analytics firm RetailNext, told Retail Dive. “Today Aero is all about price. They have this kind of junior customer who's not quite a fast-fashion customer, where Mom’s the real shopper, taking the 11-year-old into the store. So if that trend is off or too sexy for this kid, Mom’s not going to be buying that. I think they’re missing the trend for that market.”

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Filed Under: Corporate News
Top image credit: Wikipedia user Raysonho