Big Lots warns its survival is in doubt, plans to close up to 40 stores

Big Lots is warning investors that it might not be around much longer.

The discount chain, in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), warned there was “substantial doubt about the Company’s ability to continue as a going concern.” Big Lots has reported net losses and burned up its cash reserves in 2022, 2023 and the first quarter of 2024. In May, it reported a quarterly loss of $205 million, citing ”a continued pullback in consumer spending by our core customers, particularly in high ticket discretionary items.”

In the remainder of the year, Big Lots said, it plans to open three new stores, but will close between 35 and 40. (The company reported 1,392 locations at the start of 2024.) It did not disclose in the filing which locations were at risk of shutting down.

The company also said it has an increasing long-term debt load, which jumped $72.2 million, from $501.6 million in the first quarter of 2023 to $573.8 million in the first quarter of 2024.

Despite the dire tone of the filing, Big Lots said it plans to “vigorously pursue its plans to enhance its liquidity [and] improve the performance of the business.”

Big Lots isn’t the only discount retailer to find itself in distress this year. 99 Cents Only filed for bankruptcy in April and announced plans to close all 370 locations across the country. (A sizable number of those storefronts will be taken over by Dollar Tree.)

And last month, Dollar Tree said it was exploring the sale of Family Dollar, which it acquired in 2015 for $8.5 billion. Any sale price is likely to be significantly lower, as the company has since closed nearly 1,000 stores and Dollar Tree was fined more than $40 million for a rat infestation at a warehouse, forcing hundreds of stores to close temporarily. The chain has also been in hot water with OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, for hazardous conditions, including blocked exits and improper access to fire extinguishers.

Dollar Tree has not set a deadline for a decision on the potential sale.

Big Lots investors, though, are surprisingly optimistic. The company’s shares were up more than 17% in mid-morning trading on Thursday.  

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