Bankrupt Pier 1 becomes a walking zombie

A Pier 1 Import store on Feb 21, 2020 in Redwood City, California. Pier 1 Imports Inc., an American retailer specializing in imported home furnishings and decor, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Bankrupt Pier 1 Imports is winding down its brick-and-mortar operation, but its brand name will survive online.

Retail Ecommerce Ventures (REV), an investment firm that buys beleaguered brands, is paying $31 million for the moribund home goods retailer's name and intellectual property. The aim is to reboot Pier 1 online and create "robust ecommerce future for the brand," the firm said Friday.

Pier 1 filed for bankruptcy in February after nearly 60 years in business. It evaluated its survival options but couldn't find any, and it ultimately won court approval in May to permanently close its 500 stores. Liquidation sales began in May.

REV is co-owned by social media influencer Tai Lopez and Alex Mehr, the co-founder of online dating website Zoosk.

The company invests in so-called zombie brands that it believes can be revived online. REV bought Dressbarn's brand last year from the newly bankrupt Ascena Retail Group and says it has turned into a successful online business. It also owns the Linens 'n Things brand, Franklin Mint and is the lead bidder for bankrupt Modell's Sporting Goods.

"In just eight months, we were able to turn around Dressbarn's entire business," Mehr said in a statement. "The biggest thing we did was meet consumers where they already were: online. After seeing its near immediate success, we knew this model would work very well with Pier 1 as well, whose fans have been buying home goods for almost 60 years."

Pier 1 is joining a crowded space online filled with entrenched competitors. Shoppers have increasingly turned to Amazon, Wayfair, Etsy and other e-commerce businesses. Big-box chains such as Target and Walmart have also strengthened their home goods offerings in recent years.

And then there's Bed Bath & Beyond and Tuesday Morning, rival home goods retailers that have also struggled in recent years from many of the same forces pressuring Pier 1. Bed Bath & Beyond announced earlier this month it's closing around 200 stores over the next two years, and Tuesday Morning filed for bankruptcy in May and is closing a third of its stores.

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