Speculation of further financial pressures continues to mount at Bon-Ton.
The Bon-Ton Stores Inc. began a marketing promotion Wednesday in an e-mail that said it has started its After Christmas Sale. According to the e-mail, there are more than 200 doorbusters and shoppers can save up to 70 percent storewide. There’s also a $10 off coupon, as well as a promotional code for up to 25 percent off on sale price merchandise.
Further, the company on Tuesday gave away $1 million in gift cards, beginning at 7 a.m. Bon-Ton operates stores under the name plate Bon-Ton, Boston Store, Bergner’s, Carson’s, Elder-Beerman, Herberger’s and Younkers.
To be sure, touting extra special promotions are what all retailers are doing this week as they hit the homestretch leading up to Dec. 25. Typically post-holiday sales begin the day after Dec. 25, or sometimes the evening of, and in Bon-Ton’s case, there was also a notation that the after-Christmas doorbusters end Dec. 28.
While both marketing programs are in line with what the company did last year for the holiday promotional season, that hasn’t stopped speculation this year about Bon-Ton’s future. That’s even though a year ago when the after Christmas doorbusters’ deadline ended, all that happened was that the retailer marched on with another new limited time sales promotion.
The fact that Bon-Ton is feeling financial pressure is not a surprise given that it has been on the watch list of credit ratings agencies all year. And the company hasn’t helped its case when on Monday it filed a notice with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it elected to exercise a 30-day grace period under the terms of an agreement for 8 percent Second Lien Senior Secured Notes due 2021. The grace period allows Bon-Ton to delay a $14 million interest payment that was due Monday by 30 days.
A spokeswoman for Bon-Ton said, “As we have communicated recently, we are taking steps to drive improved performance and strengthen our financial position. We believe it is in the best interests of Bon-Ton and our stakeholders to take advantage of the grace period under the terms of our credit agreement to continue engaging with our lenders to establish a sustainable capital structure and position Bon-Ton for long-term success.”
She added that the company has “sufficient cash to fund normal operations and meet our financial commitments and obligations to vendors, and the exercise of the grace period has no impact on our ability to continue to borrow under our current credit facility.”
Financial sources having been saying for weeks that the situation wasn’t great, and this week, several individuals said there’s talk that the company is a candidate for a pre-package bankruptcy filing. Executives at the retailer could not be reached for comment. One individual, a financial source, said a big contributor to Bon-Ton’s financial problems is that its “stores are in B and C malls,” where foot traffic has been on the decline. Others are saying vendors are beginning to think twice about whether or not to ship as they ponder Bon-Ton’s future.
Last month, shares of Bon-Ton began trading on the OTCQX Best Market, after having traded on the Nasdaq Global Select market.