With their joint offer of $243.3 million, landlords Simon Property Group and General Growth Properties, liquidators Gordon Brothers Retail Partners LLC and Hilco Merchant Resources LLC, and licensing firm Authentic Brands Group won Thursday's auction for bankrupt teen apparel retailer Aeropostale, according to Bloomberg.
The consortium's offer beat back a rival bid from Aeropostale stakeholder Sycamore Partners. The private equity firm earlier won the right to leverage the $150 million it’s owed by Aeropostale to bid at the bankruptcy auction, and would have forced the retailer to liquidate had it prevailed.
The consortium deal still must be approved by the bankruptcy court; a hearing is scheduled for Sept. 12. Assuming the bid earns the court's endorsement, Aeropostale will be able to keep at least 229 stores open, according to Bloomberg: The venture partners will sell inventory from the hundreds of remaining stores that will shut down.
Aeropostale is back from the dead.
The teen apparel retailer earlier this week seemed to be nearing the end, as investor Sycamore Partners was poised to leverage its loan to take over operations. Instead, Aeropostale said in a statement Friday that it’s back “with new ownership as a financially stronger company positioned to compete and succeed in an evolving retail landscape.”
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.
But Sycamore took the high road Friday. “We are pleased with the outcome of the Aeropostale Inc. bankruptcy auction, which will result in the repayment of our debt while enabling the company to keep open more than 200 stores, preserve thousands of jobs and continue to serve customers,” a Sycamore spokesperson told Bloomberg.
The drastically slimmed-down Aeropostale still must make the changes it has failed to accomplish so far, and shift away from logo-centric clothing that is no longer in fashion. The retailer must also reconcile its purported customer base with the shoppers who actually buy its clothing: While Aeropostale features older teens in its marketing, it tends to sell to tweens or, more accurately, their parents.
Yet another obstacle: Aeropostale has consistently produced high-quality clothing, but also featured bottom-barrel prices, an unsustainable drag on its margins.
"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," Shelley E. Kohan, VP of retail consulting at store analytics firm RetailNext, told Retail Dive earlier this year. "I think they’re missing the trend for that market."