The year starts messy, with many familiar faces falling over the streets in the first few months, including CoolCat and Hudson's Bay. Later, with Thomas Cook, there is also a large travel company that collapses. NU.nl looks back on the most important (near) bankruptcies of an eventful 2019.
February: Intertoys' bankruptcy, restart and sale
For Intertoys, the year can at least be called turbulent. The toy chain goes bankrupt in February, followed by a restart in May with the Portuguese investment company Green Swan as the owner. Around 150 stores are closed, leaving more than 230 stores.
Grand plans color the restart. There will be 'experience stores' where experience is central, and also things like 'personalized wrapping paper' must save the chain. In conversation with NU.nl, new CEO Roland Armbruster says that the approach will be completely different. "The world is changing, and we are changing with it. You have to dare to try something."
That is of short duration: in September the investor is already selling Intertoys. Michiel Witteveen, the owner of Mirage Retail Group, buys the toy store chain for a "sharp" amount. The Portuguese would have had too little money for the plans, with empty stores as a result.
Because Mirage also owns Blokker, Big Bazar and Maxi Toys, according to Witteveen a strong player is created who can close "the best deals" when purchasing. We will see it in 2020.
See also: Toy chain Intertoys bankrupt, stores remain open for the time being
March: CoolCat goes bankrupt (and is saved by Kahn)
CoolCat is founded in 1979 by entrepreneur Roland Kahn, but will go under in March this year. At that time, 1,180 people were employed in the chain in the Netherlands. "Challenging market conditions" is the explanation for the bankruptcy.
The weather is also said to be the culprit: "If it stays above 20 degrees for months, nobody will buy fall clothing. Same story for when it doesn't get cold," said a spokesperson for NU.nl. There is also criticism of that statement. A retail chain should withstand such common, small setbacks. Retail expert Paul Moers at the time: "If you can't handle bad weather, you shouldn't live in the Netherlands."
Incidentally, founder Kahn indirectly takes over the baton again via a limited liability company construction. From a technical point of view, CoolCat does have a different owner, since the limited companies where the store fell are bankrupt. It still has an unclear effect on the shopping streets. It is referred to as the closure of all stores, leaving only a webshop under the name CoolCat Junior. Yet the door is still ajar for the option of a small amount of physical CoolCat cases.
See also: Bankrupt CoolCat after restart in the hands of the same family. What's up with that?
April: Sissy-Boy makes insufficient profit, but still makes a restart
Sissy-Boy, which has been around since 1982, is declared bankrupt in April. The clothing and interior accessories chain currently has 45 stores and around 600 employees work there. Although the turnover in 2018 amounts to 60 million euros, the profit of the company remains behind. Despite cost savings and cuts, bankruptcy appears to be inevitable.
Immediately after the announcement, a buyer was already known: the family-owned company Termeer, also the owner of shoe store chains Sacha and Manfield, took over the business. 80 percent of the employees are offered an employment contract under the new owner. 42 stores in the Netherlands remain open.
See also: ABN AMRO had 5.2 million euros outstanding with bankrupt Sissy-Boy
September: Thomas Cook causes holiday panic
The nightmare when you are on vacation: your tour operator goes bankrupt. It happened to hundreds of thousands of travelers in September, when the British brought Thomas Cook outside to stop all activities immediately. The company has been trying for some time to complete a rescue plan, but cannot get the necessary investors together.
A thousand Dutch people have been duped. "We and many other travelers are refused on location by hotels, because they are afraid of not being paid," one of them tells NU.nl. That's on September 23 when the announcement is made. On September 30 it is announced that the Dutch branch will not survive: the bankruptcy is official. The approximately two hundred employees in our country will be dismissed.
Travel organization TUI Netherlands takes over the domain names and customer databases of the Dutch business unit, according to November. The organization also helps many people who run into problems when they go bankrupt.
See also: Booked through Thomas Cook: "We stood in front of a closed hotel door"
November: Hudson's Bay: rise and fall within two years
Perhaps the story that matters most this year is that of Hudson's Bay. The Canadian department store chain was introduced to the Netherlands in 2017 with a lot of bombing, where in many places it also took over many old buildings from V&D. Supermodels were flown in to cut the ribbons; it couldn't go on.
Yet the chain stumbles after two years: in April the first rumors about a possible bankruptcy come out, and in November the chain requests a deferment of payment. After a few months of tug-of-war, such as the redemption of lease contracts that would last for decades, it is now clear that in the long term Hudson's Bay will disappear completely from the Netherlands.
The company is not bankrupt, but picks it up before it can happen: the Dutch apparently were not waiting for this department store in the high segment. It is ironic that the properties are now filling up for the first time due to large discounts.
See also: Retail expert: 'Hudson's Bay has done too little effort'