graveyard with retailers that are bankrupt

Bankrupt & Broken Retailers, Pt. 1: A list of who went under and who closed stores in 2015



In some ways, Canada’s omni-channel retail ecosystem lags behind our nearest neighbours in the US and UK. 

In others, we’ve been privileged (or cursed) to be the first in emerging retail trends simply due to the nature of our unique market. Large country with a small population with an over saturated retail market in the metropolitan areas.

So over a year ago, we wrote about a hallmark Canadian retailer that – seemingly suddenly – went belly-up: Jacob.


This was not the first retailer to fall, and it will be far from the last.

Since that article, the rate of attrition of retailers in Canada and the USA has increased exponentially. Recently, we’ve seen this pattern extend into the UK, with BHS’s recent closure announcement, where the rate of retailers succumbing to bankruptcy and/or restructuring is just beginning to accelerate.

In this article, we take a closer look at which retailers have gone under or have been forced to massively scale back their operations in 2015. We will be following up this article with an examination into what the root causes behind the mass attrition of the middle of retail across Canada, the USA, and the UK.

Read Part 2 here

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Part 1:

The list of omni-channel retailers that have filed for bankrupt, have gone under or closed stores in 2015

It’s a strange and fascinating time to be alive, especially if you’re an omni-channel retailer or are like VL, where we are a satellite to the industry and get front-row seats to watch trends develop.

The once popular 1960’s-born model of big-box retail, consumption for the sake of consumption, and retail shops where nothing seems to differ besides the brand label on the products seems to be behind us. Instead, we’re entering a leaner age where digital rules, customer experiences must be seamless, and the average middle retailer that once ruled the malls is quietly slipping into obscurity.

2015 was a particularly interesting year for this.

While retail bankruptcies have been on the rise since 2012, the first six months of 2015 saw as many filings as all of 2014 combined

Not only has this trend continue to accelerate, it seems to be the same sorts of retailers that are succumbing: the dreaded (and oh-so-average) middle. With millennials – the generation coming into their prime buying years driving the trends that are ultimately putting these businesses under – coming into full force and spending their money in very particular ways, there’s simply too much competition and not enough differentiation between one ‘average middle’ retailer and the next.

Many of VL’s customers play in the omni-channel retail space, and we’re proud to say that none of our clients are anywhere near to being on this list of dead and dying retailers. Partly due to great brand identity, great leadership, and the foresight to put effective strategies in place ahead of the curve; and partly due to fantastic and consistent customer experiences; and to properly integrated applications leading to better data, allowing everything to work together.

So that got us wondering: who exactly is on that list of bankrupt and broken retailers from 2015?

There didn’t seem to be a definitive list out there for the omni-channel retail markets VL works in – Canada, the USA, and the UK. So we set about our research, and this is what we found:



*Bankruptcies [Chapter 9 & 11] or administration [UK], complete rebrandings, or mass store closures in Canada, the USA

**Abandoned a significant percentage of their store holdings, with or without investing in solely digital channels

For more information and up-to-date news on closures, you can monitor this website.



So what does this have to do with omni-channel data integration?

We’ll break down some of the other reasons in Part 2 to this blog post – like brand identity, application selection, omni-channel mix, customer experience and more – but at the heart of most of these issues is (believe it or not) data integration.

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The not-so-sexy but ever-important role of connecting all your applications together in a way that makes sense, is scalable, and can meet the needs and demands of your business and your customers is incredibly important. To communicate the idea of how important good quality omni-channel data integration services are to your business, here’s one crass but effective metaphor:

A good omni-channel data integration service like VL OMNI is like the plumbing in your house; not sexy, mostly invisible, but incredibly important.

Sure, your house might be able to get by without plumbing. But when that block party comes around, you can bet that guests will be skipping your house and moving on to the places with plumbing.

Omni-channel data integration services aren’t the right fit for everyone, but if you’re a growing company looking for a cutting-edge competitive advantage, VL OMNI could make all the difference to the efficiency and effectiveness of your business (just like indoor plumbing makes a difference to your home). We’re at a transition point in omni-channel retail where high-quality data integration isn’t yet a must have, but if the attrition of the average middle retailer continues as it did in 2015 (all signs point to ‘yes’) this early adoption stage won’t last for too much longer.

See if VL OMNI is the right fit for you

Shopify at Inbound 2015

And who knows – maybe good-quality data integration coupled with a solid reimagining of their brand identity could have saved some of these businesses on this list.

Read Part 2 here

Not every business is ready for VL OMNI.

Curious to see if yours is?