The worst thing that can probably happen to any business is bankruptcy. This is why it’s common among business owners to think that bankruptcy is almost the same as a death sentence.
However, this supposedly widely-accepted idea is actually a misconception. While it does normally entail closure, bankruptcy is mainly designed to help financially troubled businesses to waive or repay their loans. In fact, filing for bankruptcy can prove to be a strategic decision to save a business and start anew.
Still, what can’t be denied is that bankruptcy will always have some serious business consequences. And as a business owner, you must never decide to do so without first giving it much thought. Here are some key bankruptcy statistics that offer valuable insights to businesses and consumers alike.
Bankruptcy Statistics Table of Contents
Global Bankruptcies Statistics
Just like death and taxes, bankruptcy is a fact of life. Across the world, many businesses encountered some uncontrollable and sometimes self-inflicted problems that compel them to file for bankruptcy. Some businesses do survive, but many tend to close shop as the final available option.
- In 2020, worldwide business insolvencies are expected to rise by 6%
- At the global level, the 9% year-over-year upward trend in business insolvencies continued in 2019
- Conversely, North America is on a reversal trend at 3% increase, along with Western Europe at a 2% rise
- From 2016 to 2020, business failures are expected to consistently rise by 6% year-over-year
- Asia will be the key contributor to the 8% year-over-year rise in business bankruptcies in 2020
- Western Europe, where economic growth will remain below the historical threshold, which usually stabilizes the number of insolvencies (+1.7%),
- For the 9th consecutive year, Latin American business insolvencies are expected to continue increasing at 13%
- Due to the 2008-09 financial crisis, the number of bankruptcies for businesses in North America was predicted to grow annually by 3%. From 2010 to 2019, the figure actually declined year-over-year.
Country-Specific Business Bankruptcies
- China sustains its 20% rise in business insolvencies as of 2019
- In 2019, France recorded the highest number of business insolvencies of any country, with 52,100 businesses becoming insolvent.
- The United States came in second with 22,900 businesses filing bankruptcies last year
- The third is the United Kingdom with 22,325 insolvent businesses
- Germany (with 19,370) and China (with 12,750) came in fourth and fifth places, respectively, for 2019
- In a global Dun & Bradstreet survey of bankruptcies, 48.8% (21 out of 43) countries reported a decrease in the number of business failures in 2018.
- In the same report, 41.9% (18 countries) saw an increase, while 9.3% (4 countries) experienced no change
- The number of business failures in the US decreased by 3.1% in 2018
- For 2018, there were 8,235 bankruptcies in Japan. It was the country’s 10th consecutive year of decline and the third-lowest in the past three decades
Source: Euler Hermes, January 2020
Top American Bankruptcy Statistics
A decade after the Great Recession, bankruptcies in the US continue to trend lower, indicating a sustained economic recovery. However, the pre- and post-Recession America will remain in history as the pivotal eras when a handful of corporate giants had succumbed to the massive financial pressure of the times.
- American investment banking giant Lehman Brothers had assets worth $691.06 billion when it filed for bankruptcy on September 15, 2008. Up to this day, it still holds the all-time largest bankruptcy filing in American history.
- The second-largest bankruptcy involves Washington Mutual. With assets worth $327.9 billion, it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on September 26, 2008.
- The third biggest bankruptcy belongs to WorldCom. With assets totaling $103.9 billion, it filed for bankruptcy on August 21, 2002.
- Car manufacturing giant General Motors filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection before the Manhattan New York federal bankruptcy court on June 1, 2009. The filing reported $82.29 billion in assets and $172.81 billion in debt.
- Commercial and consumer finance firm CIT filed for bankruptcy on November 1, 2009. This century-old Fortune 500 firm with $71 billion in assets was forced to close shop after incurring $4.5 billion in loans.
- After one of the biggest financial scandals in modern history, American energy firm Enron was forced to file for bankruptcy in December 2001.
- Insurance and consumer finance firm Conseco incurred billions in debts in the 1990s. A $61 billion organization prior to its insolvency, Conseco went bankrupt in December 2002.
- US automaker Chrysler filed for bankruptcy in April 2009 to pave the way for a merger with Italian carmaker Fiat.
- Another victim of the 2007-2010 financial crisis, the $36.5 billion real estate investment trust firm Thornburg Mortgage filed for bankruptcy in April 2009.
- In April 1987, American oil and gas firm Texaco filed for a Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Founded in 1901 in Beaumont Texas, this $34.9 billion firm became part of Chevron in 2001.
Largest Bankruptcies in the US by Assets, as of June 2019
(in billion US dollars)
Lehman Brothers (Sep 15, 2008): 691.06
Lehman Brothers (Sep 15, 2008)
Washington Mutual (Sep 26, 2008): 327.91
Washington Mutual (Sep 26, 2008)
Worldcom Inc. (Jul 2, 2002): 103.91
Worldcom Inc. (Jul 2, 2002)
General Motors (Jun 1, 2009): 82.29
General Motors (Jun 1, 2009)
CIT Group (Nov 1, 2009): 71.00
CIT Group (Nov 1, 2009)
Pacific Gas and Electric Company (Jan 14, 2019): 71.00
Pacific Gas and Electric Company (Jan 14, 2019)
Enron (Dec 2, 2001): 65.5
Enron (Dec 2, 2001)
Conseco (Dec 17, 2002): 61.39
Conseco (Dec 17, 2002)
MF Global (Oct 31, 2011): 41.00
MF Global (Oct 31, 2011)
Source: visualcapitalist.comCreated by CompareCamp.com
Retailer Closures & Bankruptcy Statistics
There’s an ongoing “retail apocalypse,” involving massive shop closures in the US and elsewhere. It’s not only because of the continuing dominance of Amazon. Critical factors for these widespread retail closures include soaring debts, poor adaptation, and even wrong business decisions. Here are the most notable retail bankruptcies from 2016 to 2019:
2019 Major Retailer Bankruptcies
- In February 2019, Payless ShoeSource filed for bankruptcy. The closure of its remaining 2,100 stores in the US is the highest for last year.
- American apparel firm Diesel filed for bankruptcy in March 2019 due to massive losses from its brick-and-mortar stores.
- In 2019, the Ascena Retail Group closed 781 stores. These include all of its 650 Dress Barn locations
- Last September 2019, Forever 21, a popular fashion apparel and accessories firm, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. However, it plans to continue its operations once it has restructured its finances.
- Luxury store Barneys New York filed for bankruptcy in August 2019. While the main store in New York City will likely remain in operation, the company is likely to be purchased by Authentic Brands by 2020.
2018 Major Retailer Bankruptcies
- Children’s toy giant Toys “R” Us filed for bankruptcy in September 2017. Despite massive efforts to repay its $5 billion debt, it finally decided to close its stores in March 2018.
- Retail giant Sears went bankrupt in October 2018 due to years of declining sales as a result of the rising online retailing environment.
- After reaching over $1 billion in debt, Shoe retailer Nine West filed for bankruptcy in April 2018
- American gun maker Remington Outdoor declared bankruptcy in March 2018. It had incurred over $775 million in debt
- Shoe manufacturer Rockport filed for bankruptcy in May 2018 due to declining sales and separation from Reebok (an Adidas company), its previous owner
- An unprecedented record of 155 million square feet of space was closed in 2018
2017 Major Retailer Bankruptcies
- In March 2017, electronics retailer Radioshack declared bankruptcy for the second time. It was able to resume operations by November 2017 as a purely online retailer.
- In June 2017, kid’s apparel chain Gymboree filed for Chapter 11 protection. After four months, it exited bankruptcy and focused on omnichannel sales
- With over $43M in debt, Vitamin World declared bankruptcy in September 2017. Prior to its closure, it had 334 retail locations.
- In 2017, retailers in the US closed 102 million square feet across the country
2016 Major Retailer Bankruptcies
- After filing two bankruptcies within a year’s time, American Apparel finally closed shop in November 2016. It was acquired by the Canadian apparel firm Gildan.
- In 2012, Online fashion retailer Nasty Gal reached $100 million in sales but began experiencing declining sales in the ensuing years. It sold its brand and business to a rival firm in November 2016.
- Activewear brand Yogasmoga filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy in December 2016
- Fabric retailer Hancock Fabrics declared bankruptcy twice and closed all 185 of its stores across the US in February 2016
Source: Coresight Research
Covid-19 Business Impact & Bankruptcy Statistics
Companies continue to keep stores closed and feel the effects of the global COVID-19 shutdown. Some industries are taking out large amounts of revolving loans just to stay afloat. Many companies, however, are already filing for bankruptcy.
- Analysts predict that around 100,000 stores in the US alone will be forced to close by 2025 as more consumers stop buying in person and shop online
- As unemployment soars, over 12 million unemployment insurance claims were filed in the US in April 2020
- Since March 1, 2020, auto industry firms have taken over $38 billion in revolving drawdown loans, the highest among all industries
- Retailers came in second, which has taken out over $35 billion in revolving loans
- The travel and leisure industry has made over $23 billion in revolving loans, the third-highest among all industries
- According to IATA estimates, airlines across the world will lose a minimum of $314 billion due to the pandemic
- Thai Airways is the first Asian carrier to file for bankruptcy because of COVID-19
- One of the most affected retail stores is office supplies retailing. Experts predict only 50% of its current stores will remain open in the next five years.
- Prior to the pandemic, 28% of consumer electronics stores have closed shop in 2019. Only 72% will remain operational by 2025.
- 27% of sporting goods stores went bankrupt in 2019 and by 2025, 73% will remain in business.
- In 2019, 24% of home furnishings shops filed for bankruptcy. By 2025, 76% of stores are predicted to remain in 2025.
Revolving Loans by Industry between March 1 and April 9, 2020
Debts and bankruptcies are rising due to the Covid-19 pandemic (in billion USD)
Real Estate: 16.7
Consumer Products: 15.2
Source: Goldman Sachs, Wall Street JournalCreated by CompareCamp.com
Bankrupt Businesses that Recovered Statistics
Bankruptcy is often the end of a company, but it doesn’t have to be in every case. The companies in this list have re-emerged from bankruptcy to become profitable and successful, often better than before.
- In 2019, for every two closures, a new store opened
- 4,454 store openings were announced in 2019, mainly dollar and discount brick-and-mortar stores in the US.
- For 2019, the top three store openers were Dollar General (975 stores), Dollar Tree (348), and Family Dollar (202)
- Texaco was prompted to file bankruptcy in a failed buyout attempt in 1984. After a $3 billion settlement, it resumed operations in 1987 and is now part of Chevron
- Sbarro went bankrupt twice: first through a Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization in 2011 and then again in 2014
- Theme park operator and amusement company Six Flags went bankrupt after suffering over $2.7 billion in debt in 2009. After a year, it was able to reorganize and continue its business
- In 1996, Marvel Entertainment filed for bankruptcy. It was after the release of Iron Man in 2008 that catalyzed its success. Marvel is now worth more than $17 billion and is a key Disney franchise
- During the Great Recession, US carmaker Chrysler filed for bankruptcy in April 2009. It was able to repay the US government $11.2 billion (from the $12.5 billion assistance package) and became a Fiat owned-firm in 2014.
- Following the financial crisis of 2008, General Motors, previously the biggest car manufacturer in the world, filed for bankruptcy and was bailed out by the federal government in December 2013
- The time it takes to resolve business insolvencies has been gradually decreasing over the last 20 years
- In 2019, the worldwide average time to resolution is 2.47 years
- Back in 2004, the average time to resume normal operations was 2.77 years
Personal Bankruptcy Statistics
For the longest time, medical expenses had been the top reason for filing for bankruptcy. While health remains a major factor, new, more pressing reasons have emerged behind why people file for personal bankruptcy.
- In 2019, there were 752,160 cases of personal bankruptcy filed across the US.
- More older Americans are filing for bankruptcy nowadays than 25 years ago
- Older adults now also compose a greater percentage of all Americans filing for bankruptcy
- By state, Tennessee has the highest personal bankruptcy rate in the US as of September 2019 at 496.62
- With a rate of 416.94, Mississippi has the 2nd highest personal bankruptcy rate in the US as of September 2019
- As of September 2019, Alaska (52.34) and Vermont (83.35) have the lowest personal bankruptcy rates in the US.
- From July 2018 to June 2019, California had the largest number of bankruptcy filings throughout the US.
- Around 12.8 million consumer bankruptcy petitions were filed in the federal courts between October 2005 and September 2017
- Of those bankruptcy petitions, 32% (4.1 million) were filed under Chapter 13, while 68% (8.7 million) were filed under Chapter 7
- 97% of all Chapter 7 bankruptcy filings were due to consumer debts
- Of all Chapter 13 bankruptcy filing, 99% were personal bankruptcy
- The top reasons for personal bankruptcy filings were the inability to handle medical costs, supporting parents or adult children, using a 401k instead of a pension as retirement income, and holding debt from credit cards and mortgages later in life.
Source: NY Times via Consumer Bankruptcy Project
What do these Bankruptcy statistics mean to you?
They say that if you remove bankruptcy from business, it’s like viewing Christianity without hell. As a business owner or investor, it is important to note that bankruptcy isn’t always the end of the line for your firm. With so many old and new reasons why businesses and individuals file for bankruptcy, we should set our eyes more on the vast opportunities it brings.
With the current coronavirus pandemic, the challenge to succeed, remain relevant, or simply to stay afloat have never been more demanding. Nonetheless, while some organizations are striving to adapt to the changing business landscape, others see the chance for a new start.
After your debts are relieved or afforded some level of repayment, you should take the opportunity to make things better than before. For instance, many business owners are leveraging the power of technology to help them more efficiently adapt to the changing business landscape. Business solutions like ERP platforms, accounting systems, and budgeting applications can prove to be indispensable as you resume operations, especially in this highly-volatile market.
- Global Bankruptcy Report 2019
- Bankruptcy Filings Increase Slightly
- Here’s a List of 81 Bankruptcies in the Retail Apocalypse and Why They Failed
- Weekly Store Trackers
- Graying of U.S. Bankruptcy: Fallout from Life in a Risk Society
- U.S. Bankruptcy Courts – Business and Nonbusiness Cases Filed, by Chapter of the Bankruptcy Code
- 8 Bankrupt Companies That Came Back
- Disney To Acquire Marvel Entertainment
- Some Key Days in the Texaco-Pennzoil Battle
- Post-bankruptcy Sbarro is back in growth mode
- Six Flags emerges from bankruptcy
- A Retrospective Look at Rescuing and Restructuring General Motors and Chrysler
- Microsoft, Apple Join Forces — Disbelief, Boos Greet Today’s Stunning Announcement At Macworld Expo
- Coronavirus Finishes the Retail Reckoning That Amazon Started
- Some of the world’s airlines could go bankrupt because of the COVID-19 crisis
- Thai Airways files for bankruptcy amid COVID-19
- Companies filing for bankruptcy: A new normal in the age of coronavirus
- Annual Business and Non-business Filings by Year (1980-2018)
- Data Analysis: Bankruptcy and Race in America: An in-depth discussion of racial patterns in bankruptcy filings and outcomes
- Just the Facts: Consumer Bankruptcy Filings, 2006-2017