US sporting goods chain Modell’s files for bankruptcy

Modell’s Sporting Goods Inc., one of the last major brick-and-mortar US retailers in the category, filed for bankruptcy and will close all of its 153 stores.

The move, ending a company run that began in 1889 in New York, signifies the ongoing challenges many American retail chains face, particularly as online commerce continues to grow. The move to liquidate the stores, located mainly in the northeast US, will begin later this week. The filing was made in the US Bankruptcy Court for the District of New Jersey.

Prior efforts by Modell to revive the company, including seeking additional investors and trying to renegotiate contracts with landlords and vendors, proved unsuccessful.

“Over the past year, we evaluated several options to restructure our business to allow us to maintain our current operations,” said Mitchell Modell, Modell’s chief executive and the fourth generation in what was a long-running family business. “While we achieved some success, in partnership with our landlords and vendors, it was not enough to avoid a bankruptcy filing amid an extremely challenging environment for retailers.”

Modell’s was particularly prominent in the New York area where it began, and had been a notable retailer of licensed apparel from each of the major US sports leagues. 

Rival chain Sports Authority went through a similar liquidation in 2016, as category-specific players have been hammered by larger and more online-focused retail players such as Amazon and Walmart.

Further hurting Modell’s fortunes were a recent lack of championship success for New York-area pro teams that would drive sales of title-specific merchandise, and warmer winters that cut into sales of cold-weather gear.

Modell’s is still exploring a recapitalization that could include a sale of some or all of its remaining assets.