RETAIL RECKONING: HOW PRIVATE EQUITY IS BOOSTING SOME BRANDS AND CRUSHING OTHERS

In most stories about retail these days, private equity is depicted as the bad guy—dooming operators by piling on debt. And not without reason. Buyout firms have been behind many of the industry’s biggest bankruptcies. In fact, 10 of the 14 biggest retail bankruptcies since 2012 were buyout-backed chains. The roster of buyout busts includes a host of familiar brands such as Gymboree, Sports Authority, Payless ShoeSource, and Nine West Holdings. More carnage is on the way. The retail reckoning continues. But as the example of Canada Goose shows, private equity investors can offer retailers a huge boost when things go right. PE firms have helped speed up the evolution of dozens of companies in ways that now seem to be helping them stay competitive in the much-changed, Amazon-disrupted landscape. The sheer number of struggling retailers linked to private equity today, however, reflects a burst of optimism about retail in the PE industry more than a decade ago.