Express Inc. files for bankruptcy amid declining shopper relevance

Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData, says the retailer suffered from low sales due to the high prices and unappealing products in comparison to its rivals.

Express Inc. has filed for bankruptcy following a consistent struggle with its merchandise mix, which has failed to attract shoppers

The trendy fashion retailer operates Express, Express factory outlets, Bonobos and UpWest. As part of the bankruptcy process, the company will shutter 95 of its more than 500 Express locations and all UpWest locations, starting with closing sales today, CNN reported.

“With the company struggling to gain traction with consumers, it has been obvious for quite some time that bankruptcy was the inevitable destination for Express,” said Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData.

Express files bankruptcy
Express Inc. which operates Express, its factory outlets, Bonobos and UpWest, has filed for bankruptcy in a Delaware court. (Photo: Adobe Stock)

All Express Inc. brands will handle returns, fulfill orders, and redeem gift cards and store credits in-store, and that’s in addition to continuing to take orders through online channels during the Chapter 11 process. The company also said there will be no impact on customer benefits associated with the Express Insider program.

“The woes at Express are not all of its own making,” Saunders maintained. “The formal and smart casual market for both men and women has softened over recent years because of a rise from working from home and the casualization of fashion. This puts Express firmly on the wrong side of trends and, in our view, the chain made too little effort to adapt.”

Saunders asserted that the retailer suffered from low sales due to the high prices and unappealing products compared to its rivals. Consequently, he added, the Express brand lost its significance among shoppers.

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Express recently secured $35 million in new financing from its existing lenders. It has also received a nonbinding letter of intent from a consortium led by WHP Global, which proposes the potential sale of a substantial majority of its retail stores and operations. 

Express Inc. CEO Stewart Glendinning said WHP Global has been a strong partner of the company since 2023. The proposed transaction would provide additional financial resources to the company, which would aid in better positioning the business for profitable growth and maximizing value for its stakeholders.

“We continue to make meaningful progress refining our product assortments, driving demand, connecting with customers and strengthening our operations,” noted Glendinning, CNN reported. “We are taking an important step that will strengthen our financial position and enable Express to continue advancing our business initiatives.”