How bankruptcy saved Express

Eugene Gologursky | Getty Images

Express has been a shopping mall staple since the 1980s. But since its CEO Michael Weiss left the company in 2015, its sales and store count have been declining.

In recent years, Express has been squeezed by thin margins and declining shopping mall traffic, combined with the rise of the athleisure category during the pandemic.

What's more, cheaper fast-fashion alternatives like Shein and Primark have taken market share from the brick-and-mortar retailer.

"Every time these kinds of expansions came through, they were cheaper than Express. Yes, the product wasn't as well built, but the customer didn't care. And so Express's market kind of kept on shrinking and it became much harder to sell fashion and to sell it at an affordable price," said Eric Beder, CEO of Small Cap Consumer Research.

CNBC reported that Express was struggling to pay its vendors on time at the end of 2023 and beginning of 2024. By April, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Bankruptcy has helped Express to stay in business, get out of old leases and even given it a chance to revive its fortunes.

A group of investors led by brand management firm WHP Global and mall operators Simon Property Group and Brookfield Properties moved to buy the company. The new joint venture, called PHOENIX, received New York court approval for the acquisition of Express on June 14.

Watch the video to find out more about the rise and fall of Express — and its likelihood of rising again under its PHOENIX owners.

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