08/05/2018 - Six have already filed for bankruptcy in 2018, pointing to more struggles ahead. With data from CreditRiskMonitor, we looked at companies that may be vulnerable.
igh consumer confidence, a healthy overall economy and a banner 2017 holiday season helped change the mood around retail going into the new year. But there are still dark spots in the industry.
And where it's still dark, it's at least not as dark as it was in 2017 — a year that beat out the recession era for retail bankruptcies. Many of the same problems remain for department stores and specialty retailers: traffic has declined at B- and C-class malls, Amazon and e-commerce's share of the pie is quickly growing, off-pricers and discounters have squeezed middle-tier names, and consumers are spending more on experiences over stuff.
And not least of all, there is still billions of dollars in debt out there coming due in the near future, much of it left over from a rash of leveraged buyouts of retailers by private equity firms in the past decade. The debt puts balance sheets under stress and the interest payments leave less money to invest in the business — a sure recipe for a death spiral.
Already this year there have been six major retail bankruptcies, including that of Bon-Ton Stores, the first major department store in years to liquidate. Most executives expect retail bankruptcies in 2018 to increase or keep pace with last year, according to a study from consulting firm BDO. S&P analysts have also noted that retail defaults could increase this year, as could liquidations. Moody's analysts said last week that retail defaults in the first quarter of this year hit an all-time high, though the ratings agency expects that defaults likely peaked in March.
With all that in mind, we're looking closely at who is still vulnerable. In putting together a list of retailers that could go bankrupt, we relied on data provided to Retail Dive by CreditRiskMonitor, a service dedicated specifically to predicting the risk of companies with publicly traded stock or bonds going bankrupt.
CreditRiskMonitor estimates the risk of a company going bankrupt within 12 months based on several streams of data, including financial ratios, bond ratings, a commonly used credit analysis model (the "Merton" model) and aggregated data patterns from its own subscribers, which include credit professionals and major corporations.
The service uses that data to assign a proprietary rating, called a "FRISK" score, that weighs the probability of bankruptcy. A FRISK score of one indicates a 9.99% to 50 % chance of bankruptcy within 12 months, and a score of two corresponds with a 4% to 9.99% chance of bankruptcy. (The scores continue to 10, which indicates risk near zero.)
The following was culled from lists of retailers with FRISK scores of one or two in the first quarter 2018 provided by CreditRiskMonitor executives.
By Ben Unglesbee
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