The news that Whitehall plans to liquidate if it doesn’t find a buyer — or gets someone to fund its reorganization — puts me in mind of a conversation with an attorney representing Friedman’s a few months ago. We were about to run a story saying the chain would close all its stores, and I asked him if he was 100% sure it was liquidating.
He replied, “Know of anyone who wants to buy 300 jewelry stores?” (And of course, the irony is the only serious bidder was Whitehall.)
So here we are again … and the question is, again: “Know of anyone who wants to buy 300 jewelry stores?”
Whitehall does seem to be trying. Its bankruptcy papers note its investment firm “contacted 100 buyers, including strategic and financial buyers. Although several parties expressed interest, none were able to submit a final proposal at this time. Debtors are hopeful there will be a Going Concern Bid submitted at or prior to the [July 18] auction.”
We’ll see. It’s worth nothing, that amid all that went wrong at Whitehall’s, there are likely some pretty good stores in the 300 it’s selling, including the 78 it bought from Friedman’s, which were all said to be profitable. Yet, some good jewelry businesses are now on the endangered list.
On a brighter note, many will tell you that these kind of convulsions are ultimately healthy, and the jewelry business will emerge from all this leaner and stronger. But watching it up close and in slow motion, it’s pretty ugly. And we may not emerge from this down cycle for quite a while.