Diamond & Jewelry News

Brick-and-Mortar Meltdown sets sad record. And Q2 starts out on the right foot.

These are retailers that are large enough to be rated by Moody’s and other ratings agencies. These are not small retailers but corporations that make up the core of the Brick-and-Mortar Meltdown. Among those that Moody’s rates, there were nine defaults in the first quarter, an “all-time high,” as Moody’s[1] put it, “reflecting the fallout of changing consumer behavior and advancing e-commerce for traditional brick-and-mortar retail.”

These nine retailer defaults accounted for nearly one-third of the 28 total corporate defaults in Q1, which was up 22% from Q1 last year. The oil-and-gas sector – despite the idea that the oil bust is over – was in second place, with five defaults.

This “recent stream of defaults” pushed the default rate of junk-rated bonds in the US to 3.9% for the trailing 12-month period ended in March, up from 3.4% in December. And the default rate of junk-rated “leveraged loans” – loans that are traded like securities or that are packaged into Collateralized Loan Obligations – rose to 2.6% in Q1, up from 2.4% in Q4.

Not all defaults lead to bankruptcy. In some cases, these retailers were able to come to an agreement with their creditors and restructure their debts without going through bankruptcy court, as the threat of bankruptcy motivates the creditors to negotiate. This type of debt restructuring can be considered a “distressed exchange” of debt, and thus a default on the terms of the original debt.

The nine retailer defaults include:

Sears Holdings, which is trying to stave off bankruptcy for as long as possible even as sales are collapsing toward zero[2], refinanced $500 million in old debt with...

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