Shiekh Shoes LLC
- 11/29/17 Recap: More retail in bankruptcy. Here, the retailer of footwear, apparel and accessories aimed at the urban subculture has filed for bankruptcy. Of note, the company has 124 specialty retail store locations across ten states; it also owns "e-tailer" Karmaloop, which, itself, was in bankruptcy a few years ago. Interestingly, the Karmaloop transaction is now riddled in controversy and serves as a cautionary tale to any purchaser of distressed retail assets like customer lists which, as we've seen from a variety of retail bankruptcies of late, is often one of the more "valuable" assets a retailer has. Data, baby, data! Of course, the data needs to be current and relevant as opposed to technologically engineered and enhanced. Which, the company alleges, is exactly what Comvest Partners did with Karmaloop's customer lists. The company notes, "The Debtor’s decision to acquire Karmaloop was based on Comvest’s representation that it had accumulated approximately 6 million unique customer email addresses, 3.7 million of which were alleged to be responsive/active consumers. After the acquisition was finalized in March of 2016, however, the Debtor found out that more than 80% of these emails were no longer valid and the overall health status of the Karmaloop email database/system was in very poor condition." The company continues, "The evidence discovered by the Debtor’s CTO and E-Commerce Director further indicated a concerted effort by Comvest/Karmaloop executives, and third party email ecommerce marketer, Klaviyo, to conceal the poor condition of the email list to give the appearance to prospective buyers that Comvest had “stabilized” losses and “grown” the business since taking over after Karmaloop’s prior bankruptcy in 2015 (out of which Comvest purchased Karmaloop). This was achieved by, among other means, constantly switching IP addresses so the company would not be blacklisted, as well as changing the code on both the Karmaloop and PLNDR sites to double-count traffic on the websites. Interestingly, the “double-pixel” (the means through which Karmaloop was doublecounting traffic on the websites to create the appearance the websites were experiencing increased traffic) was removed from Karmaloop’s website shortly before the Debtor took over and site traffic quickly nosedived. Thus, the Debtor has reason to believe Comvest knew the representations it made in the offering memoranda were false and it took affirmative steps to cover it up." As if this wasn't enough, the company also discovered that its "confidential" email list was in the possession of another business, the result of a previously-undisclosed pre-acquisition settlement between Karmaloop and a vendor. On account of these issues, it looks like the company and Comvest are primed for a bankruptcy court battle royale. Compounding matters is the company's reliance on Nike Inc. ($NKE) for product. Nike, the company notes, refused to ship product to the company without cash in advance payment; it also didn't support the company's attempted Midwest expansion. Unfortunately, that lack of support came after the company had already committed the capital to pursue said expansion. Whoopsies. Now, the company is unwinding those efforts. The company is also planning to close 31 stores. Yay #retailapocalypse! The company has no plan in bankruptcy other than to leverage the appropriate provisions of the bankruptcy code to pursue a restructuring of leases and its debt. Liquidation isn't out of the realm of possibility which, naturally, isn't great Christmas news for the company's 1,743 employees. One final note: the company noted soft sales in men's shoes (Nike and Brand Jordan): this seems consistent with the broader footwear narrative that specialty footwear and Adidas are eating into Nike's market share.
- Jurisdiction: C.D. of California (Judge Zurzolo)
- Capital Structure: $20mm RCF (State Bank and Trust Company & Comvest Capital II LP), $15mm unsecured LOC
- Company Professionals:
- Legal: SulmeyerKupetz PC (David Kupetz, Asa Hami, Steven Werth)
- Financial Advisor: KGI Advisors Inc.
- Real Estate Advisors: Gordon Brothers Retail Partners LLC
- Other Parties in Interest:
- Comvest Partners II LP
- Legal: Goldberg Kohn Ltd. (Randall Klein, Dimitri Karcazes) & (local) Robins Kaplan LLP (Scott Gautier, Kevin Meek)
- Comvest Partners II LP