Business

Hilo Hattie Files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

February 23, 2015, 10:30 AM HST
* Updated February 23, 10:31 AM
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Just two days after Hilo Hattie closed up shop at its Prince Kuhio Plaza location in Hilo, the company filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection.

Company officials claim in a statement that, although Hilo Hattie has accomplished important financial milestones, outside factors including an unresponsive Oahu real estate market have led to the financial challenge. Although the real estate market is beginning to change, officials say it’s too little, too late, and that Hilo Hattie’s cash reserves in support of its mounting debt have already been depleted.

“We’ve adjusted every part of the business plan under our control to adapt to the rapidly changing dynamic of Hawai’i’s retail landscape,” explained Hilo Hattie Executive Vice President, Mark Storfer. “We have seen a slow but steady climb toward profitability as we’ve adjusted our positioning, product mix, and retail experience to meet shopper demand. But a key component of our plan was finding a retail footprint that fit today’s market, and that has proven elusive.”

Even with recent record visitor arrivals, company officials say that considerable adjustments had to be made to contend with flat or declining sales. Shoppers, officials say, are spending more on airline flights and hotels and less on shopping, dining, and activities.

The reorganization of the company will allow Hilo Hattie to complete its return to profitability, as well as its commitment to supporting local businesses.

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“This was a very, very difficult decision to make, but it is the best way to protect the employees and the company’s long term interests,” said owner Donald Kang. “We are committed to doing whatever it take to continue that tradition and to ensure this company realized its full potential.”

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Wholesale and retail operations will continue without interruption. Free in-store entertainment, hands-on-crafts, and tastings will also continue to be offered at its remaining locations.

“In the meantime we are continuing to look for a larger tenant or several smaller tenants interested in leasing the 40,000 square foot second floor of the Nimitz location,” said Storfer. “It’s extremely convenient for any business looking to expand operations or relocate closer to town.”

Hilo Hattie closed its two Big Island stores in 2015. The Kona location closed on Jan. 18 and the Hilo location closed on Feb. 18. The company also closed its Kihei location in Maui at the beginning of the year.

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