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What’s Next for Beleaguered Retailers?

Pressures Continue to Grow in the Ag, Logistics Industries

As I pen this guest editor’s column for the Journal of Corporate Renewal’s retail restructuring issue, it is the first week of 2022. At this time of year, I always reflect on the previous year—what happened across the globe, in restructuring, in retail, and in my practice. In 2021, I left my colleagues of 20 years at my previous firm and started on a new path, supported by many family members, friends, and colleagues. For those of you among that group who are reading this, many thanks.

For better or worse, I started on my new journey during one of the slowest restructuring markets on record. In fact, 2021 Chapter 11 filings were down by more than 25% year-over-year, and many recent retail Chapter 11 alumni are looking toward IPOs, including Claire’s, Mattress Center, and Guitar Center.

COVID had cleaned out a wave of restructuring candidates in early 2020, accelerating many restructuring candidates that may have otherwise restructured in 2021. Having worked more than our fair share in 2020, most retail restructuring experts took 2021 as a year to exhale, from asset-based lenders to liquidators, investment bankers, and financials bankers.

Unfortunately, like many of you, sitting still isn’t in my nature, so despite the lack of restructuring work, and even less in retail restructuring, I pressed on until a few situations started to come my way. With a bit of elbow grease, a few good friends, and the support of my new team, I found my footing and a string of clients and officer roles has followed. I currently find myself in Los Angeles regularly, where I’m serving as CRO and co-CEO of BH Cosmetics.

Regrettably, COVID continues to keep all of us at home more than we’d like and pushes retailers to drive efficiencies in-store and volumes online. Ilya Podolyako of The Working Group and I co-authored a piece focused on how some classic retail perspective can help retailers isolate their issues and drive operating performance. Big data has created tremendous insights and new opportunities for retailers. However, it has also, with increasing frequency, distracted retail operators from sound practices and analysis, such as ensuring they are influencing their conversions, units per basket, and so on.

This issue of the JCR has many great pieces focused on issues facing beleaguered retailers, with perspectives on supply chain, COVID impacts, filing and security trends, and retail real estate, among others. In addition to being thankful for all of these authors and their willingness to share their expertise with our readers, I’m especially proud of my fellow members of the Editorial Advisory Board, who work to put together 10 great issues of the JCR every year. That, of course, couldn’t be done without Eddy McNeil, now in his 21st year with TMA as editor of the Journal.

Spencer M. Ware

Spencer M. Ware, CTP

Conway MacKenzie

Spencer M. Ware, CTP, is a managing director in New York with Riveron and leads the firm’s Retail Practice. Over his 20+ year career he has developed a broad restructuring expertise with a focus on retail. In 2022, the M&A Advisor named Ware the Turnaround Consultant of the Year. He has received numerous awards for his roles and his teams’ efforts, including for JC Penney’s, where he was an interim officer, and Eastern Mountain Sports, where he was CRO.

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