It’s shocking to realize how many major companies have faced bankruptcy. Some bounced back and recovered, but others were lost forever. Changing markets, advances in technology, shifts in consumer tastes and financial missteps have all led to some once thriving businesses making a beeline to bankruptcy court.
Car companies, tech firms, popular fashion labels and beloved department stores have all been victims. Read on to learn more about some insanely popular businesses that went bankrupt at least once throughout their history.
Until the 1980s, Sears was one of America's most beloved retailers. Founded in 1893, it offered car parts and repairs, a portrait studio, optical services, an online travel agency, flower delivery and in-home carpet and upholstery cleaning — all in addition to core staples like clothing and appliances. Unfortunately, the retail giant was shoved aside by bargain competitors like Walmart, Best Buy and Amazon.
Back in 1996, it looked like comic giant Marvel was going to need some superheroes to save it from bankruptcy. The company made several business missteps, including investing in interactive CD-ROMs and opening the ill-fated Marvel Mania restaurant.
Payless ShoeSource was once the go-to store for discount footwear. Founded in 1956 with the goal of "democratizing fashion," the shoe chain was a popular self-serve retailer with locations worldwide. It looks like you will have to get used to paying more in the future. The company announced it filed for bankruptcy a second time in February 2019.
American Airlines may be the world’s largest airline, but that didn't stop it from making an emergency landing in bankruptcy court back in 2011. The airline carries more than 200 million passengers to approximately 190 destinations across the globe each year and also operates the regional carrier, American Eagle.
If you want to remember Kodak when it was the undisputed leader in American photography, you'll probably have to look at some old pictures. Founded in 1888, Kodak once ruled the photography world but was forced to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2012. Sales had fallen far from 1976 levels, when 85% of all U.S. camera sales and 90% of all film sales displayed the Kodak name.
Iconic American bicycle company Schwinn rode into the sunset in October 1993 after the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Schwinn was once a household name, thanks to mass marketing, a strong national dealer network and a focus on the children’s market. The company also produced a tandem bicycle as well as touring bikes and 10-speed racers.
DeLorean Motor Company
Immortalized in the hit film Back to the Future, the DeLorean Motor Company's namesake car is now a thing of the past. Named after company founder John DeLorean, the company began operations in 1975 with the DeLorean being the only car it ever produced.
General Motors brought Americans lots of iconic cars and trucks, including the Cadillac, Buick, Chevy Suburban and Chevy Tahoe, but the company's finances crashed in 2009 as the nation faced the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. In June of that year, GM was forced to file Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Remember when you couldn't walk through a mall without stopping to relax in one of Brookstone's incredible massage chairs? The store gained popularity for its fun consumer gadgets, like specialty alarm clocks, clever wine-openers, drones and various massage devices.
It may be time to pick out a goodbye gift for Things Remembered. The store everyone runs to for last-minute personalized anniversary and graduation presents filed for bankruptcy protection in February 2019. Things Remembered offers engraved key chains, pens and other cherished keepsakes that eventually make their way to the bottom of your desk drawer.
There was a time when Blockbuster was everyone’s favorite store. At its peak, the popular video and DVD rental company had 9,000 stores and 84,000 employees willing to tell you their favorite movie picks. During all those years, Blockbuster made some big money on overdue fees.
Rock and roll isn’t dead, but it wound up on life support on May 1, 2018, when Gibson Guitars filed for bankruptcy. Known for making iconic guitars played by musicians like Elvis Presley, Pete Townshend and Eric Clapton, the Nashville-based company reported it was at least $100 million in debt when it filed papers seeking protection from creditors.
Tweens and teens may have a sad diary entry for March 19, 2018, the day Claire’s filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Stocked with sparkly faux jewelry, lip gloss and Hello Kitty gear, Claire’s proudly boasts that techs have pierced more than 100 million ears.
Founded in 1921, RadioShack was once everyone’s go-to store for that hard-to-find battery, extension cord or diode. With more than 4,000 locations, the nerd haven that once sold a variety of consumer tech and gadgets was forced to power down when it went bankrupt in 2015.
Before there was Best Buy, shoppers looked to Circuit City for the newest televisions, stereos and home appliances. During the ‘80s and ‘90s, the company pioneered the concept of the big box appliance store and had more than 1,500 stores across the country.
When it came to big box sporting goods stores, Sports Authority was — you know we just have to say it — the authority for many years. The company's stores carried apparel, footwear, team sports items, golf accessories, camping gear and exercise equipment. When it was at the top of its game, the company had 460 stores, and its name was emblazoned on the Denver Broncos’ stadium.
Forever 21 came of age on September 29, 2019, when it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Once popular for "fast fashion" — trendy, mass-produced clothing that was cheap and disposable — the company was founded in 1984 by South Korean immigrants Jin Sook and Do Wan Chang. It catered to financially strapped young adults.
Tower Records was once the place to go for all your music and movies. Founded in 1960, the company attracted music aficionados in search of the latest album or hard-to-find singles, and employees were known to select music that was popular in their communities. The store also sold CDs, cassettes and DVDs.
Eddie Bauer, the company that brought you the quilted down jacket, felt a financial chill when it was faced with bankruptcy. At its pinnacle, the maker of high-end outdoor wear and accessories had more than 500 stores across North America, Japan and Germany.
Founded in 1985, Enron was an American energy company created from the merger of Houston Natural Gas and InterNorth. At its height in 2000, Enron claimed revenues of $101 billion and employed 29,000 people. Forbes honored Enron by naming it "America’s Most Innovative Company" for six years in a row.
Chi-Chi’s was once the perfect place to get your Mexican fix. During the 1980s, folks couldn’t get enough of their margaritas, nachos, chimichangas and fried ice-cream. By 1986, Chi-Chi’s had 237 locations, but increasing competition from other chains resulted in the restaurant filing for bankruptcy in 2003.
Founded in 1898, Bon-Ton was a staple in shopping malls across the United States. Devoted customers could find everything from clothing, jewelry, beauty products and footwear to home decor items. The company also operated several other brands, including Bergner's, Boston Store, Carson's, Elder-Beerman, Herberger's and Younkers.
David’s Bridal is struggling to keep the romance alive with customers as it attempts to reorganize after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2018. The discount wedding gown and accessory shop appears to be close to a breakup with customers, thanks to increasing purchases of bridal goods online.
For more than 30 years, Borders was the favorite haunt of bookworms. Founded in 1971 by two brothers attending the University of Michigan, the company gradually opened up stores across the United States and offered books that were specifically tailored to each community and its readers.
In April 2018, fashion retailer Nine West’s parent company Nine West Holdings was forced to file for bankruptcy. Founded in 1993 with a focus on footwear, the company gradually expanded to carry a variety of accessories and brands, like Bandolino, Anne Klein and Gloria Vanderbilt.
When the PC revolution hit, Compaq was one of the tech leaders. Started in 1982 by three former Texas Instruments executives, the trio came up with their company’s name by cleverly combining the words "compatibility and quality." Consumers loved the company’s portable computers, and Compaq grew to become the largest personal computer system supplier of the 1990s.
Toys "R" Us
Remember when you were a Toys "R" Us kid? By 1990, the chain was the largest toy retailer in the United States — so large, in fact, that it put most other toy stores out of business. Children begged to stroll down the aisles in search of the perfect Barbie, LEGO set or teddy bear.
Gymboree was once a family favorite, with 945 stores across the U.S. and Canada. The popular kids' clothing retailer closed its doors after going bankrupt a second time in 2019, along with its chain of Crazy 8 children’s shops.
Clothing retailer Charlotte Russe fell apart at the seams when it filed for Chapter 11 in February 2019. Opening its first store in Carlsbad, California, in 1975, the company had more than 500 brick-and-mortar shops that marketed loads of inexpensive fashions to teens and young adult women.
Kenny Rogers' Roasters
Sporting the name of country singer Kenny Rogers, this fast food restaurant served up wood-fired rotisserie chicken and sides. Founded in 1991, the popular chain opened more than 425 restaurants in the U.S. and abroad. By 1996, KRR boasted annual sales of $300 million.