Home Cd store After bankruptcy, Christopher & Banks returns as TV and online retailer

After bankruptcy, Christopher & Banks returns as TV and online retailer



It was a flash sale, and there were lines full of buyers for Christopher & Banks clothes – phone lines.

On the online and cable network ShopHQ, host Melissa Miner smiled as she explained the merits of a Christopher & Banks bobble sleeve sweater and a “magic turtleneck” that didn’t sag.

“What does your wardrobe say about you?” Miner asked.

The revival of Christopher & Banks by ShopHQ’s parent company, Eden Prairie-based iMedia Brands, speaks volumes about the evolution of a retail brand in the digital age.

Almost a year after the Plymouth-based womenswear chain filed for bankruptcy, liquidated its 450 stores and came under the iMedia umbrella, Christopher & Banks is now the most popular fashion brand on ShopHQ.

“We like to buy or launch brands that we think fit our demographics and that we think we can give an unfair advantage by getting them on TV, building the promotional power of cross-promoting our existing customers to them. “said Tim Peterman, Chief Executive of iMedia, in an interview with the Star Tribune.

He added: “People are talking about millennials and how everything has to be aimed at younger people. I will proudly say that our customers are starting to [age] 50, gets really big at 60 and continues at 70.”

Christopher & Banks began as a Braun’s Fashions women’s store in Minneapolis in the mid-1950s. After going public in the early 1990s, it became a staple in malls nationwide with a mix of business and casual wear. He added a second chain of retail stores, called CJ Banks, which featured plus sizes in 2000.

The company consolidated its brands and closed some locations in subsequent years. Before the pandemic, business leaders were trying to engineer a turnaround, with the brand posting its first quarterly profit in three years in December 2019. But the pandemic, when it was forced to close stores during the first lockdowns, has sounded the death knell. Sales fell by more than 50% in the first months of 2020.

Even after stores were allowed to reopen, the business never recovered. In January 2021, Christopher & Banks filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and began liquidation sales at its nearly 450 stores nationwide.

The company laid off nearly 400 staff at its Plymouth headquarters and distribution facility and ultimately thousands more at its stores. A group of 40 merchandising and production employees have been rehired and are now working in the iMedia office, Peterman said.

One of the rehired employees, Kim Decker, who worked for Christopher & Banks for more than 40 years and had been a regional manager before the bankruptcy, is now a brand ambassador on ShopHQ.

“I thought I was going through a death,” Decker said of the store closings and bankruptcy. But now, she added, “The brand lives on.”

One of the things that drew iMedia to Christopher & Banks was the quality of the clothes, Peterman said. Christopher & Banks uses original fabric designs and manufactures clothing that includes plus size women.

“There are a lot of big old brands that just have business models that have become stale,” said Mark Argento, founding partner and principal research analyst at Minneapolis investment bank Lake Street Capital Markets.

Many of these legacy businesses have too many retail stores and need a digital refresh, but still have good customer bases, Argento said.

“The deal they made to take over the brand made perfect sense to me,” said Eric Wold, senior analyst at B. Riley Securities.

The licensing partnership that iMedia entered into with Hilco Global, which was Christopher & Banks’ primary lender when it filed for bankruptcy, was beneficial to iMedia in that it did not have to take as much risks, Wold said. It also helped iMedia in its quest to grow beyond ShopHQ by analyzing Christopher & Banks customer data to be able to potentially provide media services to other brands, Wold said.

“The company is evolving from a simple commercial network to a digital media advertising company,” Wold said.

There are three legs that make up the iMedia business. The entertainment business includes its flagship ShopHQ (formerly known as Evine and ShopNBC), recently acquired German channel 123TV and ShopBulldogTV for men.

Its consumer brands segment includes Christopher & Banks, local leather goods company JW Hulme and a collection of kitchenware from basketball star Shaquille O’Neal.

The company also has a media trading services arm.

In April, a month after announcing it would take over operations of the Christopher & Banks brand, iMedia moved Christopher & Banks’ digital business to its proprietary e-commerce platform ShopHQ and began fulfilling orders from a warehouse in Bowling Green, Ky. It also introduced new Christopher & Banks merchandise.

In May, ShopHQ premiered its first Christopher & Banks TV show. That same month, he reopened his first Christopher & Banks retail store in the Riverdale Village outdoor mall in Coon Rapids, followed by another store in Branson, Missouri. Three other stores have since reopened. The brand sent out its first direct-to-consumer catalog in the fall.

This month, Christopher & Banks launched a digital styling service so clients can chat one-on-one with virtual stylists and shop for custom outfits.

“Our plan was pretty simple,” Peterman said. “We wanted to drive business growth on digital. This means that instead of having 300 retail stores, we would have a robust TV and digital business and a complement of retail stores. We have five open today ‘ today and we’ll probably roll out a few in the fall and we’ll do a few a year.”

Sales at Christopher & Banks ShopHQ tripled from the second to the third quarter and are on track to double in the fourth quarter, which is about to end.

The brand is attracting new customers and helped iMedia achieve its best new customer growth in a decade, a 65% jump, the company said last quarter. The Christopher & Banks segments on ShopHQ have quickly become the most popular of any fashion show on the network.

Stores also performed well. At the Coon Rapids store last week, there were shelves of discounted winter clothes as well as red and pink clothes for Valentine’s Day. A customer said she was pleasantly surprised when the store reopened last year.

“We were all so thrilled. It was amazing how many clients we reactivated and how it continued to grow,” Peterman said.

Despite the growth, there have been challenges. It was difficult to convince some of Christopher & Banks’ suppliers in March after the company filed for bankruptcy, Peterman said.

The company also faced major supply delays, as apparel faced the same supply and transportation issues as other industries. When the Christopher & Banks catalog came out, 30% to 40% of the styles in it were delayed, Peterman said.

iMedia executives said the goal is for Christopher & Banks to achieve $40 million in revenue by the end of this month, not quite a year since iMedia took over operations .

By contrast, Christopher & Banks had about $350 million in annual sales in each of the two fiscal years before its bankruptcy.

Peterman said he wanted to slowly grow Christopher & Banks’ business.

“Often fashion brands in particular suffer the most when they have to meet unrealistic growth expectations,” Peterman said. “We want to make sure we get the right foundation of the business.”