Retail

Pier 1 Wants to Sell the Company, Files for Chapter 11, but Are There Buyers?

At the end of November 2019, Pier 1 Imports Inc. (NYSE: PIR) operated 942 stores in the United States and Canada. In January, the company said it planned to close up to 450 locations, including all 66 Canadian stores. On Monday, the company announced that it is putting itself up for sale and filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

In the announcement, Pier 1 said it had arranged debtor-in-possession financing totaling approximately $256 million from Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Pathlight Capital.

The company is seeking a court-supervised sales through Chapter 11 and expects a bid deadline date of around March 23, subject to court approval.

CEO Robert Riesbeck said:

Today’s actions are intended to provide Pier 1 with additional time and financial flexibility as we now work to unlock additional value for our stakeholders through a sale of the Company. We are moving ahead in this process with the support of our lenders and are pleased with the initial interest as we engage in discussions with potential buyers.

So who might those potential buyers be? Struggling retailers have been a favorite of private equity firms for several years now, primarily for whatever assets the retailers had that could be sold off in pieces. Except for a 460,000-square-foot building in Fort Worth, Pier 1 leases its distribution centers (about 5 million square feet in six states). Depending on their locations, the buildings might hold some interest as locations for “last mile” vendors seeking hubs near major metro areas.

These so-called infill logistics assets were hugely popular last year. Blackstone Group Inc. (NYSE: BX) paid out $24.6 billion last year for about 240 million square feet of warehouse space all over the United States. If Pier 1 had had anything Blackstone wanted, it would already be gone.

Pier 1 stores are generally viewed as poorly located, too small or both. Smaller format deep-discount supermarket chains like U.S. newcomers Aldi and Lidl might be interested if the locations were better, and established chains like TJX’s HomeGoods and HomeSense stores might be interested if the Pier 1 buildings were larger.

Barring a white knight riding for a last-minute rescue, that leaves the auctioneer’s hammer as the last sound we’re likely to hear from Pier 1.