Charlotte Russe Looking for an Angel to Buy the Retail Chain

Charlotte Russe, the San Diego-based teen retailer who filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Feb. 3, is accepting bids from prospective buyers in hopes of not liquidating the company and closing all its stores.

Bids are due by March 3 and an auction is scheduled for March 5, the company said in a Feb. 19 press release.

Charlotte Russe executives said they are in active discussion with prospective bidders to make a going-concern sale of the business to avoid liquidating substantially all of the company’s assets.

At the same time, Charlotte Russe will seek court approval of a “stalking horse” liquidation agreement put forth on Feb. 20 by retail liquidators Gordon Brothers Retail Partners and Hilco Merchant Resources.

If a bidder is not selected, the company will start an “orderly wind-down of all its store locations and operations beginning on or about March 7, 2019.”

Currently, Charlotte Russe has about 500 stores located primarily in malls and outlets in 49 U.S. states and Puerto Rico. Previously, the company said it would shutter 94 of its stores, but no additional store closures have been announced.

Under its Chapter 11 filing, Charlotte Russe continues to pay its workers and money due to shippers, warehouse people, utility-service providers and tax authorities.

However, it recently filed a notice with the California Employment Development Department that it plans to lay off 87 employees in Ontario, Calif., where it has a warehouse, and 85 employees in San Diego.

Last year, Charlotte Russe reduced its term-loan debt from approximately $214 million to $90 million, which in turn reduced its annual interest expense by nearly half. The loans’ maturity date was extended with term lenders to February 2023, with the lenders receiving 100 percent of Charlotte Russe’s equity.

Over the past several years, Charlotte Russe has seen increased competition from other retailers including Forever 21 and other mall-based stores that target young female customers.

Charlotte Russe has been led by Jenny Ming since she became the chief executive in 2009, taking over from Mark Hoffman, who left after some merchandising missteps and declining same-store sales. She previously had led Old Navy as its president.

Charlotte Russe, named after a French dessert, was founded in 1975 by three brothers—Dan, Frank and Larry Lawrence—who grew up in the retail business in Brooklyn, N.Y. They opened their first store in Carlsbad, Calif.