Add Bon-Ton to the list of failing retailers. According to this Journal Sentinel report, Bon-Ton is drowning in debt, $1.1 billion to be exact, with a balance sheet like that it won’t be long before we say adios to another iconic retailer.
Bon-Ton, which hasn’t been profitable since 2010, on Wednesday announced it is closing 42 stores this year, including nine in Wisconsin, as it tries to turn around financially.
On Monday, Bon-Ton disclosed it was in talks with a group of creditors about a restructuring plan that would allow it to keep operating either in or out of bankruptcy.
“It’s possible they will file successfully for reorganization, but that’s not a guarantee they will survive,” said retail industry consultant Anne Brouwer, senior partner at McMillanDoolittle in Chicago.
Bon-Ton is burdened with about $1.1 billion in debt. With sales slumping in a tough environment for retailers — especially for department stores — Bon-Ton recently missed a $14 million interest payment. Talk of the company filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection has heated up ever since then.
“The bigger, long-term challenge for them is what’s their reason to exist,” Brouwer said. “Do they have a business model, a positioning in the marketplace and in consumers’ minds, that they can be meaningful? What is their point of differentiation? Why should consumers consider them over the range of competition. I don’t see an answer to that yet. Maybe they’re working on one.”
Bon-Ton lost $63.4 million in 2016 and was on its way to posting an unprofitable fiscal 2017. Its financial results for fiscal 2017 haven’t been posted, but through the first three quarters of the year the company lost $135.4 million.
The stock price of Bon-Ton closed at an all-time low of 15 cents per share on Friday. A year earlier, a share of Bon-Ton stock cost $1.18. The company’s stock price was $30 per share in 2006 when Bon-Ton came into the Milwaukee area market by buying Boston Store and other retail stores from Saks Inc.