(Reuters) - Debt-laden U.S. outerwear and outdoor gear retailer Eddie Bauer LLC has hired investment banks to explore strategic alternatives, including a potential sale of the company, people familiar with the matter said on Friday.
Eddie Bauer has hired Guggenheim Partners LLC and Financo LLC to explore its options, the people said. They said the company is not currently pursuing a debt restructuring, although it is seeking relief from a $225 million term loan due in 2020 and $200 million revolving credit line that comes due in 2019.
The sources asked not to be identified because the deliberations are confidential. Golden Gate Capital declined to comment, while Eddie Bauer, Guggenheim and Financo did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Changing consumer tastes and a boom in internet shopping have prompted upheaval in the retail sector. High-end retailers Neiman Marcus Group Ltd LLC and J. Crew Group Inc have both retained advisors to slash their debt loads. Others including Rue21 Inc and Gymboree Corp have filed for bankruptcy.
Bellevue, Washington-based Eddie Bauer, with about 370 stores in the United States and Canada, was acquired out of bankruptcy by buyout firm Golden Gate Capital in 2009 with a cash bid of $286 million.
Eddie Bauer, founded almost 100 years ago, was an acquisition target before. In 2014, men’s apparel retailer Jos A. Bank planned to acquire Eddie Bauer for $825 million in an attempt to stay independent in the face of a bid from rival Men’s Wearhouse Inc. The bid for Eddie Bauer ended when Men’s Wearhouse succeeded in acquiring Jos A. Bank.
Eddie Bauer opened a flagship store on Fifth Avenue in New York City near Union Square in New York City about two years ago, in an attempted turnaround that also includes plans to launch a celebrity stylist-designed line in the fall.
Same-store sales at Eddie Bauer were up 8 percent for the holiday period between Black Friday and New Year’s Eve, and are up 6 percent year-to-date, according to one of the sources.
Over the 12 months to April 1, however, Eddie Bauer has seen revenue declines and lower gross margins, according to credit ratings agency Moody’s Investors Service Inc.
Both Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s downgraded Eddie Bauer’s debt recently, warning that the brand may have to rely on borrowings to fund working capital needs and interest expense.
Reporting by Jessica DiNapoli and Greg Roumeliotis in New York; Editing by David Gregorio