Restructurings will be on the rise this year and U.S. retailing will endure more of it than any other sector.
That’s according to AlixPartners, the global advisory firm, and its 11th Annual North American Restructuring Experts Survey, released Tuesday.
Of the 207 senior-level restructuring experts polled in the survey, 67 percent said in the U.S., retail would be the industry facing the most distress this year.
“It’s going to be an interesting year. We are going to see an increase in restructurings and bankruptcies in 2017,” Deb Rieger-Paganis, an AlixPartners managing director specializing in retail and retail restructurings, told WWD. “When a major tenant leaves a mall such as Macy’s, the whole mall suffers. There’s a trickle down effect on smaller specialty stores.” The U.S. is considered the most over-stored and over-malled country in the world, making it ripe for paring down.
After retailing, the oil-gas and health-care-medical sectors will also see high levels of distressed situations.
Outside of the U.S., respondents cited the oil and gas and maritime and shipping industries for the most potential restructuring, in that order.
The survey was conducted online from Nov. 22 through Dec. 9 last year. Senior attorneys, investment bankers, lenders, hedge fund managers and other restructuring professionals across the U.S. were polled. Opinions would be swayed by August’s announcement that Macy’s would close 100 stores. After the survey, Sears Holdings said it would close about 150 stores.
Rieger-Paganis cited other causes for concern, including rising interest rates making it harder for companies and consumers to pay off debt, and rising fuel costs, giving consumers even less disposable income to spend at retail.
She did see a few positive byproducts from restructuring activity. “Landlords may be more negotiable than in the past to keep malls occupied” and there could be additional “marriages” between department and specialty retailers via shops-in-shop and wholesaling arrangements, she said.
However, apparel retailing “continues to be an issue. Teen retailers have really been suffering,” Rieger-Paganis said. “The mind-set of younger generations is more about experiences than tangible goods. They’re not loyal to brands the way their parents and older generations were.”
According to a statement from AlixPartners, “The retail industry began 2017 under the spotlight after an uptick in bankruptcies in the sector in 2016. Several high-profile apparel retailers filed for bankruptcy last year and as consumers continue to migrate online for purchases, retailers are under continued stress to adapt their operations to the changing environment.”
According to the experts surveyed, outside of the U.S., 57 percent of respondents believe this year will see an increase in restructuring activity in retailing and other sectors over 2016 and 40 percent believe the level of activity will remain at the same level. Survey respondents expect the U.K. to see the most restructuring activity in 2017, followed by Italy. Most experts think the Brexit vote will lead to more restructurings in the U.K. (68 percent), while 28 percent think Brexit will have no impact.