Fading denim brand Diesel USA files for Chapter 11

BY Fraser Tennant

Blaming falling sales, a fumbled turnaround, expensive leases and inflexible landlords, denim and accessory brand Diesel USA has moved to protect itself from creditors and filed a voluntary petition for relief under Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Hit hard by the ongoing downturn in the retail sector, the New York-based arm of Italian retail clothing company Diesel S.p.A. has seen annual sales plummet 53 percent, to $104m. In addition, cyber attacks and theft have proved costly to the retailer.

The Chapter 11 petition estimates up to $100m in assets and as much as $50m in debt. Diesel’s parent company the OTB Group is not part of the Chapter 11 filing.

Diesel’s bankruptcy comes at a time when several retailers, such as shoe store Payless, Victoria’s Secret and Gap, have reduced their footprints and closed stores following bankruptcy. However, unlike these retailers, Diesel intends to breathe new life into its US brand.

“The filing is a critical step in enabling Diesel USA to address certain long-term liabilities for a healthier and stronger business in the country, building a dynamic brand presence in line with the evolving US retail environment,” said Diesel in a statement. “This procedure opens the way to a redefinition of the brand’s geographic footprint in the US.”

This redefinition of the brand will include some important milestones for Diesel USA in 2019, including refitting and reviewing most of its retail store network and making sure its retail footprint meets the needs of both existing and new consumers.

Diesel is also looking to strengthen its e-commerce presence and has pledged to redouble its commitment to innovation via a series of key wholesale partnerships designed to give resonance to the retailer’s collections and special products, with tailored buying and distribution activities planned for each.

A premium denim and accessory brand which dominated pop culture in the 1990s and early 2000s, Diesel USA currently has 380 employees and 28 retail stores in the US, as well as relationships with department stores and specialty retailers.

The Diesel statement concluded: “We remain fully committed to the US market, a unique and fundamental window to an important player globally.”

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