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Clothing store Express files for bankruptcy, will close Florida stores

The Ohio-fashion retailer filed for Chapter 11 on Monday and says that closing nearly 100 stores nationwide may just be the beginning.

  • By Louis Llovio
  • | 6:15 p.m. April 22, 2024
  • | 2 Free Articles Remaining!
In April 2024, Express has about 530 retail and factory outlet stores in the U.S.
In April 2024, Express has about 530 retail and factory outlet stores in the U.S.
Photo by Mike Mozart
  • Tampa Bay-Lakeland
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Ohio-based mall mainstay Express Inc. has filed for bankruptcy and is closing nearly 100 stores nationwide, including several locations in Florida, and says more store closings may follow.

The Columbus retailer announced Monday it had filed for Chapter 11 protection in Delaware citing in court papers “a challenging commercial environment brought on by both broader economic and retail-specific market pressures.

The company also announced in a statement that an offer had been made on some of its assets.

In its filing filing, the company told the court it would close 95 of its Express stores and all of 10 of its UpWest stores. It also left open the possibility more closings are on the way.

The company did not publicly disclose which Express stores were shutting down, but court papers show four Florida locations could be on the shutter list.

Two of the stores on that list are in the Tampa Bay market — one at Citrus Park Town Center in Tampa and one at Countryside Mall in Clearwater. Employees at those stores, reached by the Business Observer on Monday, confirmed those locations will be closing. 

An Express spokesperson did not respond to a call to confirm the accuracy of the list in the court papers or a request to provide an official list of all the stores that are closings. The store closings, according to a statement from the company, are scheduled to begin Tuesday.

The company currently — including those closing — operates 47 stores in the state, with a dozen between Pasco County and Naples. 

Express has long been one of those fashion retailers that seems to have inhabited every traditional and outlet mall across the country, along with Lane Bryant, Chico’s, Aerpostale and American Eagle Outfitters.

According to the bankruptcy filing, that’s been changing, though. The company says in the filing that it has already closed 100 stores in the past year, leaving it with 584 locations prior to filing and the next wave of closings.

The chain in the court papers blames macro-economic issues for its troubles, saying all businesses are dealing with “the challenges associated with elevated interest rates and decreased consumer expenditure.”

“However, retailers specifically contend with reduced foot traffic in malls, shopping centers, and stores, heightened competition from comparable retailers offering substantial discounts, and a disparity between inventory and customer demand,” the company says.

“Given the expenses associated with a substantial brick-and-mortar presence, and the issues affecting the retail industry as a whole, a significant number of the (company’s) stores are operating at sub-optimal performance levels.”

Along with its standard mall and factory outlet stores, it also operates retailers Bonobos Guideshops and UpWest. It says in the statement that its online operations would not be affected by the bankruptcy proceedings.

By filing for Chapter 11, Express will have an opportunity to restructure its finances and come out stronger, though that doesn’t always work. Some retailers that file for Chapter 11 wind up converting to a Chapter 7 and completely liquidate.

That said, it may have already got a lifeline.

Express, in the statement, says it has received “a non-binding letter of intent from a consortium led by WHP Global … for the potential sale of a substantial majority of the company’s retail stores and operations.”

It did not disclose the details of the offer and given the filing the sale could be complicated.

As for the bankruptcy itself, Express says in the statement that it has a commitment from existing lenders for $35 million in financing — pending court approval. And it says that on April 15 it received “$49 million in cash from the Internal Revenue Service related to the CARES Act.”



Louis Llovio

Louis Llovio is the deputy managing editor at the Business Observer. Before going to work at the Observer, the longtime business writer worked at the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Maryland Daily Record and for the Baltimore Sun Media Group. He lives in Tampa.

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