Bright-colored "going out of business signs" are up in the windows of Track 'n Trail stores all over the country as the chain attempts to liquidate as much inventory as it can before shutting its doors either in late September or early October.
Knocking 20 to 60 percent off its entire line of outdoor, adventure, walking, and comfort casual shoes and boots then shutting its doors is a sad end to the little-guy-makes-it-big story behind Track 'n Trail. It also caps a year that began last summer with the chain of 101 remaining Track 'n Trail and Overland Trading Co. stores attempting to remake its image, its stores, its web site, and logos, then filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in April when the make-over fell flat.
Company representatives were not answering the phone at corporate headquarters in El Dorado Hills near Sacramento, Calif. And automated message didn't mention anything out of the ordinary but only gave callers options for messages relating to complaints or gift certificates. In addition, company head Dave Suechting, Jr.'s mailbox was full and not accepting messages.
On Aug. 9 -- the week the company began liquidation sales on its reported $37 million of inventory -- stock closed at 0.02 cents a share. The number of employees have been said to be as low as 575 and as high as 1,035.
The company started as a single store in San Jose, Calif., in 1979, growing to a high of 151 stores in 33 states. Family troubles of the founders didn't help progress: In 1993, company founders David Suechting, Sr. and his wife, Barbara, engaged in a nasty divorce forcing Mr. Suechting out of the company. Unable to arrive at an acceptable property settlement, the Suechting family tried to sell the company, but a deal to sell to a competing shoe retailer fell through in 1996. During that time, Mr. Suechting was killed in a motorcycle accident.
Still, sales in 1996 were reportedly $66.2 million with net income at $4.4 million. In 1997, the company went public to raise much-needed capital to grow. That was the start of the downward spiral, when expansion didn't become the cure for financial ills. In August of 1998, Track 'n Trail acquired the Littleton, Col., based five-store chain, Nevin's Eagles Nest Inc. for $3 million. That move opened the dike, and losses began to pile up. By October of 1999, company chairman David Suechting Jr. assumed control of the company operations following the resignation of president Greg Kilgore.
In January, 2000, Track 'n Trail stocks had sunk to $1 per share on the NASDAQ, prompting the company to announce the closing of 31 Track 'n Trail stores, four Overland Trading outlets, and the entire seven-store Eagles Nest chain. The Track 'n Trail and Overland stores, where brands sold included Dr. Martens, Ecco, Teva, Timberland, Havana Joe, and Birkenstock, as well as its own label, New Terrain.
At the time of the Chapter 11 filing in April, Track 'n Trail reported it owed more than $10 million to at least 1,000 creditors. SNEWS® found the top creditor was Deckers Corp., which was owed between $1.3 million and $1.6 million. Other outdoor creditors of note and the approximate debt they are owed: Timberland, $600,000; Merrell, $500,000; Salomon, $227,000; and Asolo, $125,000.