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UPDATE: 60 IPP Stores Now Have Proposed Buyers as Part of the Bankruptcy Case

The Independent Pet Partners bankruptcy case continues to unfold, with the status of the brand’s 163 stores changing daily.

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Tuesday’s update on the Independent Pet Partners bankruptcy case involves the proposed sale of 20 Loyal Companion stores in Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Hampshire and Virginia to PSP STORES, LLC D/B/A PET SUPPLIES PLUS. For complete details, see the PDF of the motion filed Monday. That brings the total with proposed buyers up to 60 stores: 24 Natural Pawz and Kriser’s in Texas to NP Acquisition LLC; six Kriser’s in California and 10 in Massachusetts, Maine and New Hampshire to Pet Pros LLC; and the 20 stores noted above. IPP intends to continue operating itself 66 Kriser’s and Chuck & Don’s stores in Colorado, Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin and Kansas.

SATURDAY, FEB. 11 UPDATE:

On Friday, Independent Pet Partners submitted a motion to approve the private sale of 24 Natural Pawz and Kriser’s stores in Texas to NP Acquisition LLC, an entity affiliated with the former owner of the Natural Pawz brand. Biff Picone and Nadine Joli-Coeur are the former owners of the Natural Pawz brand. For additional details on the motion, see a PDF of the court motion. Stay tuned for more details and comments from the new owners once the motion has been approved.

Also on Friday, a similar motion was filed to approve the sale of six Kriser’s stores in California and 10 in Massachusetts, Maine and New Hampshire to Pet Pros LLC (dba EarthWise Pet, Dee-O-Gee, GROOMBAR). See a PDF here.

TUESDAY, FEB. 7 UPDATE:

News continues to break in the ongoing Independent Pet Partners bankruptcy case. On Tuesday, the “Store Closing” signs came down at Natural Pawz and Kriser’s stores in Texas. A source exclusive to PETS+ and with inside knowledge of the situation confirmed that liquidation has ceased and that an announcement about their sale will be made next week. Of the 25 stores in the state, 24 will remain open for business, with only one set to close.

Also on Tuesday, a Loyal Companion employee shared that they had learned a “mystery buyer” was purchasing the stores in Salem and Stratham, NH, as well as five Maine locations.

We’ll continue to report this story as details emerges.

MONDAY P.M., FEB. 6 UPDATE

On Monday, Independent Pet Partners released its first statement since news began to spread Friday on social media that stores within its brand were closing. It reads:

Independent Pet Partners (the “Company” or “IPP”) today announced that the Company and its U.S. subsidiaries have voluntarily filed for relief under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware. IPP intends to use these proceedings to facilitate an orderly restructuring of all of its Chuck and Don’s®, Loyal Companion®, Kriser’s® and Natural Pawz® store locations and operations.

Julie Maday, who was recently appointed Chief Executive Officer, said, “We intend to use these proceedings to reorganize our operations and focus on our core markets where we have the strongest foothold. To that end, we will close all stores outside of Colorado, Kansas, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois, and going-forward, we will only operate under our Chuck and Don’s and Kriser’s banners.”

Ms. Maday continued, “This was a very difficult decision. We worked diligently to explore all alternatives to keep all brands and markets going; however, in the end we concluded that the right path was to apply our focus to those markets and stores where we have the strongest market position today. We are confident we can use the chapter 11 process to quickly emerge as a stronger, more focused business, better able to serve our customers. For those stores that are closing, and for markets we will no longer serve, we will do everything possible to try to find buyers for these locations so our pet parents can continue to be served.”

IPP has filed a number of customary motions with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court seeking authorization to support its operations during the restructuring process, including authority to continue payment of employee wages and certain other relief customary in these circumstances. The Company has sought authorization from the Court to continue to honor customer gift cards at least through February 28, 2023.

Additional information regarding IPP’s Chapter 11 filing as well as court filings and information about the claims process are available at https://omniagentsolutions.com/IPP or by calling the Company’s claims agent, Omni, at 888-729-5581 (toll free, US & Canada) or 747-263-0134 (International calls), or by sending an email to IPPinquiries@omniagnt.com.

McDonald Hopkins, LLC is serving as the Company’s legal counsel, Berkeley Research Group is serving as its financial advisor, and Houlihan Lokey is serving as its investment banker.

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Jennifer Carlsen Patton, vice president of marketing and omni-channel for IPP, provided the above statement to PETS+.

In total, IPP plans to close 97 of its stores, including all Natural Pawz and Loyal Companion locations, by Feb. 28. The remaining 49 Chuck & Don’s in Colorado, Kansas, Minnesota and Wisconsin, and 17 Kriser’s in Illinois and Colorado, will remain open. The FAQ document on the Omni Agent Solutions website states, “After discussions with our lenders, we have decided to sell 66 stores operating under the Chuck and Don’s and Kriser’s Natural Pet lines as part of the bankruptcy sale process.”

In light of today’s statement from Maday, we requested clarification as to these stores’ future as part of IPP and received this:
“While Independent Pet Partners will no longer be operating the Loyal Companion or Natural Pawz banners as well as Kriser’s stores in California and Texas markets, we are doing everything within our control to find buyers for these locations so our pet parents can continue to be served in this community. We are optimistic that several of these locations could have new owners in the future. Under the current restructuring, IPP will continue to operate under Chuck & Don’s and Kriser’s banners and remains committed to serving its community in Minnesota, Colorado, Illinois, Kansas and Wisconsin.”

MONDAY A.M., FEB. 6 UPDATE

On Sunday, Independent Pet Partners voluntarily filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. An FAQ document from the company obtained Monday morning states:

The Company has determined, in consultation with our advisors and management, that we will reduce our store footprint to 66 stores in our core markets of Colorado, Kansas, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois, and going-forward, we will operate only under the Chuck & Don’s and Kriser’s banners.

The document gave as reasons for the filing:

These chapter 11 cases were necessitated by a confluence of factors, including: (a) challenges related to our early growth strategies, (b) unexpected changes in consumer behavior resulting from a potentially fatal heart disease in dogs, (c) the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the retail industry, (d) recent inflation trends, (e) maturing credit facilities, and (f) a prepetition sale process that could not identify an executable, going-concern transaction.

The company plans to sell the 66 Chuck & Don’s & Kriser’s stores as part of the bankruptcy sale process. They will remain open. IPP will continue to liquidate its remaining stores by the end of February, no longer operating the Loyal Companion or Natural Pawz brands. In total, IPP has 163 stores, according to its website.

More information about the bankruptcy filing and stores closings can be found in this FAQ on the Omnia Agent Solutions website. Vendor partners as well as those wishing to inquire about purchasing fixtures and equipment from the closing stores will find contact info there as well.

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SATURDAY, FEB. 4 STORY

On Friday morning, news began to spread across social media that a significant number of stores within the Independent Pet Partners national brand — comprised of Natural Pawz, Kriser’s, Loyal Companion and Chuck & Don’s — were closing this month. We immediately reached out to the company and to individual executives for confirmation and more information, but have not yet heard back. Here’s what we do know from our own reporting and from PETS+ readers who did not waste time in visiting nearby IPP locations:

All 26 Natural Pawz and Kriser’s stores in Texas are closing as of Feb. 28. Large “Store Closing” and “Everything 10% to 30% Off Original Price” signs hung in the windows of the Natural Pawz Vintage Park location in Houston on Saturday, and a note to customers offered thanks and wished them the best. The same closing signs hung at the Kriser’s location nearby. The Natural Pawz website no longer accepts online orders.

“Store Closing” signs hung at the Natural Pawz Vintage Park location in Houston on Saturday.

A note to customers expanded on the signs.

Cynthia McKinney, owner of Loyl’s Natural Pet Grocery & Groomery in Houston, headed to the Kriser’s closest to her store, in the West University neighborhood, on Saturday.

“I went to check in on the individual team members and find out a little about them, having been in their shoes before — I worked for a company that effectively folded and another that was sold. I wanted to let them know I’m here to help in any way possible with employment, including passing along any opportunities I hear about or sharing what positions we might have available after they have time to process the news and their personal next steps,” she said. “I also wanted to see how we can work together to transition customers and keep them shopping local as this benefits all of us.”

At a Natural Pawz in Houston, an employee said that fixtures and equipment would be available for purchase and that those interested should contact the individual stores for more information. On Sunday, a store owner who inquired at another location was told a liquidation company would be handling these sales, with more details to come this week.

Also on Saturday, PETS+ readers reported that numerous Loyal Companion locations in Virginia and Maryland had “Store Closing” signs up in their windows and employees were giving customers a closing date of Feb. 28, with grooming ending earlier, on Feb. 18. A note on the company’s website says, “As of February 3, 2023, Wellness Pass members will no longer earn reward points. Reward vouchers will be accepted in stores only through February 28, 2023.​ Gift cards will no longer available be for sale as of February 3, 2023.​ Any existing gift card balances can be used in stores through February 28, 2023.” The Loyal Companion website no longer accepts online orders.

Annabell Bivens, manager of The Dog Store in Alexandria, VA, visited or called three Loyal Companion locations in Alexandria and Arlington.

“We were looking for inventory, fixtures, staff or leads on leases! The idea of (even partially) trained staff who WANT to work and are already comfortable in a store, that’s filled with inventory, has a customer base, and the landlord is willing to re-evaluate a lease is like the MOST ideal situation we could try to swoop in on,” she said. “We’ve had a hard time getting people to come in for interviews, but if they have already found their passion and need a job, it’s a much easier interviewing process for us, and fully stocked fixtures are daunting for places to think about selling, but we’re happy to offer a lump sum and pick them up! All in all, my store visits went great, and we got some amazing leads.”

Teresa Hogge, who owns Belly Rubs Biscuit Bar & Spa in Ashburn, VA, did not have to travel far to visit the Loyal Companion closest to her. Her business sits next door to it in the same shopping center. She sees an opportunity for expansion in the closings.

“I have reached out to my landlord to take over the lease of the Loyal Companion that is next to me. We literally share a wall,” she said of the 1,400-square-foot store. “We will expand our grooming and bakery and keep select retail. I am currently in 1,400 square feet, so this will double my size.”

Kaitlin McGrath, owner of Belmont Pet Shop in Belmont, MA, headed to the Loyal Companion in nearby Newton with hiring at front of mind.

“I offered both their groomers a job and gave them my business cards to hand out,” she said, adding that, “I’m coming up with flyers introducing our business, and on the back will be coupons for their top-selling brands. I talked to them about their best-selling items so I can stock up a little just in case.”

McGrath also enlisted the help of her brand partners.

“I’ve contacted the brands, and I’m doing $10 off for each brand and a $10 off when you spend $50 on treats and toys that I’ll take on the cost of.”

There are 163 stores total in the IPP brand across California, Texas, Colorado, Kansas, Minnesota, Illinois, Maryland, Virginia, D.C, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine, according to its website. As the industry awaits an official announcement from the company, perhaps a clue to which stores will remain open can be found on the “Careers” page of the IPP website. As one savvy indie pointed out, it lists only openings at Chuck & Don’s in Minnesota, Colorado and Kansas, and at Kriser’s in Illinois and Colorado.

We will continue to report details as they become available. If you have information to share, email editor@petsplusmag.com. You can also join the discussion of this topic in the PETS+ Facebook Community. Members are sharing everything from leads on available groomers and leases to tips such as dropping off postcards with coupons for new customers at the closing stores.

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Pamela Mitchell is the Editor-in-Chief of PETS+. She works from her home office in Houston, TX, with Ty the Boston Terrier as her assistant.

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